The EEOC’s position that extended leave may be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) has long frustrated employers who are left without much guidance to determine what is “reasonable.” According to the EEOC, this could be a leave of absence in excess of several months or more. In a recent decision, the Seventh Circuit has chipped away at the EEOC’s position. Reasoning that “[t]he ADA is an antidiscrimination statute, not a medical-leave entitlement,” the Seventh Circuit explained that long-term leave is the domain of the FMLA, providing “up to 12 weeks of medical leave, recognizing that employees will sometimes be unable to perform their job duties due to a serious health condition. In contrast, ‘the ADA applies only to those who can do the job.’” See Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., 7th Cir., No. 15-3754, 9/20/17, available here.
The Seventh Circuit left open the possibility that a brief period of leave to deal with a medical condition could be a reasonable accommodation in some circumstances—“a couple of days or even a couple of weeks”—which would be tantamount to a part-time or modified work schedule, two examples specifically listed in the statutory definition of reasonable accommodation.
While this 7th Circuit decision only specifically applies to those states within its jurisdiction (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin), stay tuned to see if other circuits follow its lead, or if the EEOC will change its hardline stance.