According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there has been a “troubling trend” in employment discrimination with regard to how employees with disabilities are treated in the workplace. Charges of disability discrimination are on the rise, and the EEOC believes that organizational policies on disability leave are a key factor in that increase.
In response, the EEOC released an informational document on May 9, 2016, aimed at educating employers on the regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/ada-leave.cfm
The Commission’s goal is to help employers recognize and remove any policies that prevent employees with disabilities from using leave as a reasonable accommodation or that lead to termination when those employees could have returned to work.
The document also offers responses to common questions employers and employees may have regarding disability discrimination employment laws. Judy Greenwald “EEOC document targets employer roadblocks to disability leave,” businessinsurance.com (May 9, 2016).
The EEOC received nearly 27,000 charges of disability discrimination in 2015, which represents a 6.3 percent increase from the preceding fiscal year. This increase is prompting the EEOC’s efforts to educate employers.
When an employee requests leave for a medical condition, the employer should first attempt to address the request under its leave policies, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and any state or local leave laws.
If the leave cannot be granted under any other program or law, then an employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee to assist the employer in obtaining information regarding appropriate reasonable accommodations without causing an undue hardship under the ADA.
Usually the information will focus on, according to the EEOC:
- “the specific reason(s) the employee needs leave (for example, surgery and recuperation, adjustment to a new medication regimen, training of a new service animal, or doctor visits or physical therapy);
- whether the leave will be a block of time (for example, three weeks or four months), or intermittent (for example, one day per week, six days per month, occasional days throughout the year); and
- when the need for leave will end”.
The employee’s health care provider can be asked to respond to questions designed to enable the employer to understand the need for leave and the recommended appropriate accommodations.
It is important that employers review their disability discrimination policies, and make sure temporary leave is an accommodation option for employees with disabilities when there is no under hardship to the employer. In addition, employers need to be sure that they have return-to-work policies and procedures in place that are compliant with the ADA.
Source: Hartford Help – May 31, 2016