The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued a new resource document, entitled Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “Resource Document”). The Resource Document outlines the EEOC’s position on several important topics related to leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Key takeaways are:
- If an employee requests leave for reasons related to a disability and the employee is going to use the leave available under the employer’s general leave policy, the employer must treat the employee the same as any other employee who requests leave for reasons unrelated to a disability. For example, if an employee is taking leave for reasons related to their disability and uses the sick days available to them under the employer’s existing policy, the employer can require the employee to provide a doctor’s note only if the employer requires all other employees who use sick days to provide a doctor’s note;
- Employers must consider providing unpaid leave to an employee with a disability as a reasonable accommodation, so long as the leave does not create an undue hardship for the employer (the Resource Documents lists “undue hardship” factors);
- If an employee requests leave or additional leave for a medical condition, the employer must treat the request as one for a reasonable accommodation and, if the requested leave cannot be granted under the employer’s leave program (or workers’ compensation), the employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee;
- An employer that has granted leave with a fixed return date may not ask the employee to provide periodic updates;
- If an employer is going to send a letter to an employee who is nearing the end of an approved leave, the letter should let the employee know that if they need additional unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, the employee should ask for it as soon as possible; and
- It is a violation of the ADA for employers to require employees with a disability to have no medical restrictions upon returning from leave.
While not an official guidance, the Resource Document provides a wealth of information regarding how the EEOC will view an employer’s actions and policies relating to unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation.