Saturday, April 7, 2012
Indefinite leave not a reasonable accommodation, federal court rules
Employers are not required to allow indefinite leaves of absence as an accommodation to disabled employees, according to a recent decision from the District of Massachusetts federal court. Whether disability discrimination laws, like the American with Disabilities Act and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B, mandate leaves of absence as an accommodation has been hotly contested. Both laws require that an employer provider a "reasonable accommodation" to disabled employees, provided that the employee can perform the essential job functions with (or without) such an accommodation. What the federal court ruled is that an indefinite leave is not reasonable, and therefore not required. The ruling is supported by a previous ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. However, as the federal court recognized, a limited leave of absence, and extensions on an existing leave of absence, may be reasonable accommodations under a specific factual situation where there is a definite end date to the leave.