Policy To Automatically Fire Employees After Using Up Leave Violates ADA

Your employer cannot automatically fire you once you have used up your leave, a U.S. District Court in Colorado has determined. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just settled a $4.85 million lawsuit with the nationwide trucking firm, Interstate Distribution Company, stemming from allegations that the trucking firm automatically fired sick or injured employees as soon as they had used up all of their leave and that the company did not allow sick or injured employees to return work with restrictions.

This practice is forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires that employers must make an effort to reasonably accommodate qualified individuals with a disability. This means that if despite your “disability” (defined under the ADA as any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity) you are able to do your job, either with no accommodation, or with a reasonable accommodation, your employer must accommodate you.

Further, the ADA prohibits your employer from taking adverse actions against you because you are disabled.

If you have questions concerning the ADA or what employer actions are acceptable it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced Atlanta disability discrimination attorney.

In EEOC v. Interstate Distribution Co. at least nine employees filed charges against the trucking company alleging that Interstate did not allow them to return to work without a “full duty work release” after they had used up the 12 weeks of leave allotted to them under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs annually under the following conditions:

• For your own serious health condition • To care for family members who have a serious health condition; and
• For the birth or care of a newborn or adopted child.

Recently, several cases around the county have questioned whether after these 12 weeks are used up, if “leave” can be considered a reasonable accommodation used to provide injured or sick workers additional time off from work.

The Colorado District Court determined that automatic termination of the workers without determining whether it would by reasonable to provide additional leave as an accommodation violated the ADA. Further, the trucking company also violated that ADA by refusing to make exceptions to its “no restrictions” policy and allowing employees to return even if their doctors recommended restrictions on their work activities.

During the investigation into Interstate’s alleged practices, the EEOC determined that as many as 277 employees may be entitled to relief as a result of the settlement.

The trucking company denies wrongdoing in the matter. In a statement, Interstate noted: “Interstate maintains and has maintained that it provides equal employment opportunities for all employees and has entered into this decree to avoid the disruption, costs, delay, and expense of litigation.”

As the result of the litigation, Interstate has changed its former 12-week maximum leave and no-work restrictions policy to similar policies maintained by other large-scale employers.

For more information about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act or if you believe your rights may have been violated, please contact the experienced Georgia disability discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.