How healthy is your medical leave policy? It may be time for a checkup

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a class-action lawsuit against UPS for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it terminated an employee with multiple sclerosis. According to the lawsuit, this particular employee (as well as a whole class of disabled UPS employees) was unfairly treated under the company’s 12-month leave policy.

Some details regarding the case: The employee took a leave of absence from her job when she started experiencing symptoms that were later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She came back to work for a few weeks after the 12-month leave period, but then needed additional time off to deal with the negative side effects of her medication. It was at this point that UPS fired her for exceeding its 12-month leave policy.

From an EEOC press release:

“One of the main goals of the ADA is to provide gainful employment to qualified
individuals with disabilities. However, policies like this one at UPS, which set
arbitrary deadlines for returning to work after medical treatment, unfairly keep
disabled employees from working. Sometimes a simple conversation with the
employee about what might be needed to return to work is all that is necessary
to keep valued employees in their jobs.”

UPS is defending its 12-month leave policy, calling it “one of the more generous and flexible leave policies in corporate America.” The company claims the employee never asked for an accommodation under the ADA – and that after returning from a year’s leave of paid absence, she basically “abandoned” her position 18 days later, without providing any medical documentation justifying additional time off.

What about your company’s leave of absence policy? Could it pass this sort of ADA scrutiny? Are you prepared to handle and properly administer requests for reasonable accommodations? A quick checkup of your leave policy and ADA administration practices may be in order to ensure they are healthy, stable and could stand up in court.


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