Seventh Circuit: Additional Months of Leave after FMLA not a Reasonable Accommodation

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September 20, 2017

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Employers may already know that certain types of leaves of absence may qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  However, the Seventh Circuit recently confirmed that an employee’s request to take additional months of leave after exhausting his FMLA allotment was not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

This decision arose from Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc.  Employee Severson took 12 weeks of FMLA leave due to back problems and the need for surgery, which was scheduled on the last day of his FMLA leave.  As a result, Severson requested an additional two-month leave extension, which employer Heartland Woodcraft denied.  Heartland ended Severson’s employment and invited the employee to reapply once he was able to work again.  Severson sued, alleging that the company violated the ADA by denying his request for additional time off.

In reviewing the case, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out that the ADA is intended to protect from discrimination disabled employees who can still perform their job.  The ADA is not a medical leave statute and does not necessarily extend its protections to an individual who cannot work at all.  The Court also stated that while intermittent leave may be considered a reasonable accommodation, multi-month leave was considered outside the scope of a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

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Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

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