Many employers have had to decide when to terminate an employee on extended leave; some have adopted policies that mandate termination after an employee has been on leave for a certain lengthy period, such as a year.
Another typical policy is that light duty positions will be provided only to employees who are injured on the job. However, employers should be aware that the EEOC deems such policies to be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The EEOC is suing Jewel-Osco, a unit of the major grocery chain Supervalu, Inc., for violating the ADA. The agency challenges company policies that refuse to allow qualified employees with disabilities to return to work from authorized disability leave if they have any work restrictions, and that automatically terminate employees after they have been on leave for one year.
The EEOC also challenges the company’s refusal to provide light duty for qualified employees with disabilities other than those injured on the job.
This case, in conjunction with the newly-released proposed ADA regulations, demonstrates the EEOC’s focus on disability issues.
Given this context, employers would be wise to review policies affecting employees with disabilities. Although you can certainly implement such policies as those described above, be careful not to apply them in a blanket fashion, particularly with regard to employees with disabilities.
Instead, carefully consider each case to determine if such policies should be suspended in a particular situation as a reasonable accommodation for the disabled employee.
Compliments of Worklaw® Network firm Shawe Rosenthal (www.shawe.com).