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Home » Absence Management » EEOC strikes again! $4.85 million consent decree punishing inflexible leave policies in violation of ADA

EEOC strikes again! $4.85 million consent decree punishing inflexible leave policies in violation of ADA

Marti Cardi, J.D., Chief Compliance Officer

Megan G. Holstein, J.D., Senior Counsel

On November 8, 2012, the EEOC achieved yet another multi-million dollar settlement in a lawsuit alleging systematic disability discrimination, specifically targeting an employer’s inflexible leave policy.  Specifically, the employer’s policies required two things: first, any employee who took a leave of absence for a medical reason could not return to work unless the employee was able to perform 100% of his or her job without any medical restrictions; and second, the maximum amount of leave the employer’s policy allowed was 12 weeks (the amount available to eligible employees under the FMLA).  The employer’s rigid policies led to termination of qualified individuals with disabilities without consideration of additional leave as a reasonable accommodation, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).   The plaintiff and 8 others filed a complaint with the EEOC.  Through its investigation, the EEOC determined that the employer allegedly discriminated against nearly three hundred employees pursuant to the employer’s unlawful inflexible leave policy. See the consent decree in EEOC v. Interstate Distributor Co. (D.Colo. Nov. 8,  2012).  The EEOC’s press release announcing the can be viewed here.

The employer’s leave of absence dilemma.  In the past several years, the EEOC has targeted employer’s inflexible policies, such as “no-fault” attendance or rigid leave policies as ADA violations and has secured numerous multi-million dollar consent decrees against employers. At the same time, the EEOC has put on hold indefinitely the release of its guidance regarding leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Employers are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to figuring out how to comply with the ADA when disabled employees require a leave of absence.  Reed Group has created a white paper that is a compilation of EEOC guidance documents, briefs, case law, and practical advice concerning leaves of absence as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  The white paper synthesizes all of the information in order for employers to easily understand what is required, what is reasonable, and how to go about handling an employee’s request for a leave of absence under the ADA. Reed Group’s white paper will be released approximately December 1, 2012.  Be sure to visit www.ReedGroup.com to download a copy at that time.  You may also request to receive a copy of the white paper hot off the presses by emailing servicesales@reedgroup.com.


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