“How Much Leave is Too Much Leave? Denying or Stopping Extended Medical Leaves of Absence,” Employee Benefit Plan Review
In an article published in the latest issue of Employee Benefit Plan Review, Volume 73, Carlton Hilson and Caroline Page discuss challenges employers are faced with when managing employee requests for additional or extended medical leaves of absence for employees who are not eligible for, or have exhausted Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and many federal courts find that unpaid leave may be a form of reasonable accommodation required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) even when FMLA leave is not available so long as the employee will likely be able to perform the essential functions of his or her position upon return.
Courts are hesitant to place clear and definitive limits on reasonable accommodation leave periods because each employee’s situation is unique and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Accordingly, employers are often left uncertain as to their obligations – is the additional or extended leave period required by law, or may the employer comfortably say that enough is enough?
According to Hilson and Page, although the courts have recently provided some helpful guidance for employers faced with employee requests for lengthy leaves of absence, every situation must be analyzed on its own to determine an employer’s obligations under the law and the best course of action for those involved.
Employers should always keep in mind that court decisions are highly fact-specific, and there is no bright-line rule.