Sunday, February 16, 2014

Employer's Hard Stop Leave Policy May Violate the ADA

On February 11, 2014, a judge in Illinois denied United Parcel Service's 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, finding that its policy of administratively separating employees after twelve months of leave is a "medical requirement" that may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended ("ADA").  See EEOC v. United Parcel Service, No. 09-C-5291, in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

UPS' policy applies to qualified individuals with disabilities who can perform the essential functions of their jobs, with or without reasonable accommodations.  The court rejected UPS' argument that the ability to attend work is an essential job function, finding instead that the twelve-month policy can be considered a qualification standard, or medical requirement, that an individual must meet to retain his or her position.  The court's order cited to cases holding that a 100% healed policy is per se impermissible because it prevents an individualized assessment and necessarily excludes disabled people who are qualified to work.

The takeaway is that employers with hard stop leave policies should include an exception for leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.