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Employee Leave Requests and Reasonable Accommodations Under the ADA

Posted on in Employment Law

disabled employees, Milwaukee employment law, Milwaukee employment law attorneys, employee disability,  employee accommodationsThe laws in the United States provide employees with certain protections if they have a disability, thus ensuring they will not face discrimination because of any physical or mental conditions they experience. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that will allow them to have the same employment opportunities as other employees.

However, while the concept of “reasonable accommodations” may seem clear when it comes to meeting an employee’s needs in the workplace (such as ensuring a workplace is wheelchair accessible), it becomes less so when considering requests for employee leave. An understanding of employment law is often required when determining whether leave requests fall under the umbrella of reasonable accommodations.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation is any deviation from a company’s normal policies and procedures that allows a disabled employee to have equal employment opportunities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the ADA, has stated that employers should take the following factors into consideration when determining whether to grant employee leave requests:

  • Disabled employees must have the same access to leave as other employees. For example, if an employer provides a certain number of paid sick days to all employees without any restrictions and an employee requests to use his or her sick days for reasons related to a disability, then the employer cannot deny the request or require the disabled employee to provide a doctor’s note.

  • Unpaid leave must be provided to disabled employees when required unless it causes the employer undue hardship. For example, if an employer provides two weeks of paid leave each year, and a disabled employee has used all of this leave, then the employee may request additional unpaid leave to receive treatment for his or her disability.

  • Employers cannot require disabled employees to be fully recovered before returning to work, unless the employee’s disability will create a significant risk of harm to himself, herself, or others while performing his or her duties.

  • If an employee is unable to perform his or her duties due to a disability or is unable to return to his or her previous position following requested leave, then he or she may request reassignment to a new, open position for which he or she is qualified. Employers should generally grant these requests without requiring an employee to compete against other applicants for the position.

What is Undue Hardship?

While employers are typically required to grant reasonable requests for leave, they may decline to do so if the request creates undue hardship on their business. Undue hardship occurs when granting the request would cause significant difficulty or financial loss for the employer.

When considering whether to deny a request, an employer should consider the amount and frequency of leave requested, whether the need for leave is predictable or not, and how the leave will affect the company’s operations and other employees’ ability to fulfill their duties.

Contact a Milwaukee Employment Law Attorney

While it is important to ensure that employees’ rights are protected, employers must also take their own needs into consideration, including the effect of accommodations on other employees and the company’s bottom line.

When determining whether to grant or deny employee leave requests, the assistance of a skilled employment law attorney can help you meet your legal requirements and avoid the possibility of ADA claims. Contact the Milwaukee, WI employment law attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP today by calling 414-271-1440.




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