April 30, 2020

When is Enough not Enough?

After an employee was diagnosed with breast cancer, her employer gave her 12 weeks of FMLA leave, then an additional two weeks of leave. After 14 weeks of leave, the employer terminated her employment. When the employee filed a charge with the U.S. EEOC, the commission found reasonable cause to determine the employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Why? The EEOC found the employer failed to engage the employee in an interactive dialogue to determine one or more reasonable accommodations it could provide in lieu of termination.   The parties reached a voluntary conciliation agreement that included ADA training for key decision makers.

Lessons learned?  Failing to engage an employee in an interactive dialogue can result in a finding that an employer then failed to provide a reasonable accommodation.  If an employee cannot return to work after 12  work weeks of FMLA leave, consider asking the employee to provide a doctor’s note indicating how much more time might be needed or if other alternatives such as light duty or another job might accommodation the employee’s limitations. Be proactive and train your managers and supervisors on the basics of the ADA, so they understand when they should call HR or legal counsel for guidance.