ADA May Not Require Extended Leave

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require employers to provide long-term leave as a “reasonable accommodation” for individuals with disabilities.

The decision in Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft is consistent with the court’s prior ruling on a similar issue, but conflicts with rulings by other federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) position. The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the ADA. All employers subject to the ADA should be aware that the 7th Circuit’s decision conflicts with how the EEOC may enforce the ADA under its regulations and guidance.

Whether an employer may deny an employee’s request for leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA will depend on the specific circumstances of the situation. The 7th Circuit’s decision only affects employers in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. Employers subject to the ADA in other states should be aware that other federal court decisions may apply to them.

For example, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for 1st and 9th Circuits have issued decisions holding that multi-month leave periods were reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Those decisions affect employers in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut (1st Circuit), and employers in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Montana, Idaho and Arizona (9th Circuit).

Reference the attached Compliance Bulletin for details.

ADA does not Require Extended Leave