Tuesday, March 24, 2015

EEOC Settles ADA Case Against Employer Who Did Not Offer Medical Leave to Probationary Employees

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced it has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against a Pennsylvania pipe-fitting manufacturer, Exeflow USA, Inc., for $65,000 when they failed to provide medical leave to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Adam Brant, when he experienced seizures caused by service-related disabilities.  EZEFLOW USA denied the request because Brant was still a probationary employee.

EZEFLOW USA did, however, offer up to 26 weeks of paid leave to non-probationary employees.  Probationary employees are not eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but the EEOC has long held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers probationary employees, who are entitled to accommodations under the ADA.

This case again highlights the importance for employers to review requests for medical leave on an individualized basis and not apply universal rules and policies to all requests.  This interactive process is crucial for determining whether the employee's absence will affect the company's operations.  Although here the requested leave was of a specific duration, if no time frame is given, employers should explain to the employee how his absence would impinge on their business. Employers should then request a reasonable estimate of when the employee will be able to resume his essential job functions — with or without an accommodation — to enable them to better assess whether leave can be provided as a reasonable accommodation, or would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Unfortunately, there is no bright line rule outlining the length of leave employers must grant as an ADA accommodation. Instead, the ADA requires this individualized interactive process for each employee requesting leave.

The case was EEOC v. EZEFLOW USA, Inc., Civil Action No 02:14-cv-527

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