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Court Confirms That Request for Additional Leave of an Unspecified Duration Is Not a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

Franczek Radelet (03/06/2012) Mark Wilkinson

In the case Valdez v. McGill, a warehouse supervisor took leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for a surgery related to colon cancer, then after returning from the surgery, he took intermittent FMLA leave over the course of a year due to recurring health issues. He then presented a note from his doctor saying he could not work for two weeks, as his health issues had not changed, and when those two weeks were up, he presented another letter from his doctor saying that he “may return to work” in another three weeks. Noting that he had used up the 12 weeks of FMLA leave available and citing poor work performance and excessive absences, he was terminated. The worker filed suit against his employer for failing to make a reasonable accommodation for his disability under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers are not obligated to accommodate requests for leave of an indefinite duration, and the court confirmed this position. Thus, employees must communicate regularly with their employers and provide firm dates for when they will return to work. Even so, employers should be mindful of the interactive process under the ADA in which they must communicate with employees regarding a need for leave and make individualized assessments of these requests.