EEOC Settlement Highlights Risks of Inflexible Leave Policies

On June 30, 2014, the EEOC issued a press release advising that Princeton Health Care System (PHCS) will pay $1.35 million and will “undertake significant remedial measures to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the [EEOC].” 

PHCS’ leave policy followed the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and provided its employees 12 weeks of leave.  Under PHCS’ policy, employees not eligible for FMLA leave were terminated after a short absence from work.  In addition, other employees were terminated after they exhausted their 12 weeks of FMLA leave.  

This recent settlement further emphasizes the EEOC’s consistent and clear position that an employer may have to modify its inflexible leave policy in order to satisfy its duty under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee. 

When dealing with complicated leave scenarios, employers must continue to carefully coordinate their leave and reasonable accommodation policies to ensure compliance with both the FMLA and the ADA.   

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