EEOC Finds FMLA-Compliant Policy Unlawful

Written by Daniel W. Morris

HealthCare System recently settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that its leave of absence policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The settlement will require Princeton HealthCare to pay $1.35 million, undertake remedial measures, and be subject to compliance monitoring by the EEOC. The settlement serves as notice to all employers that the EEOC continues to aggressively pursue leave of absence policies that it deems violate the ADA.

The EEOC's lawsuit, filed in New Jersey Federal Court, alleged that Princeton HealthCare's fixed leave policy violated the ADA by failing to consider a continued leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation. Princeton HealthCare's leave policy tracked the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act by limiting employees to a maximum of 12 weeks of leave. Princeton HealthCare terminated the employment of employees who failed to return to work after exhaustion of 12 weeks of leave. In addition, employees who were ineligible for FMLA leave were terminated after shorter leaves of absence.

As part of the settlement, Princeton HealthCare is required to engage in an interactive process with covered employees when deciding how much leave is needed, regardless of whether employees have exhausted their FMLA leave or are otherwise ineligible for FMLA leave. Princeton HealthCare may also not require that employees return from medical leave without any restrictions.

Employers should be aware that fixed leave policies and policies that require employees to return to work without any restrictions limit the interactive process and eliminate a potential reasonable accommodation. Complying with the FMLA is not enough. When developing leave of absence policies, employers must consider the requirements of the ADA and any applicable state or local disability discrimination laws. Princeton HealthCare was just the latest in a series of EEOC cases involving leave and attendance policies. The EEOC previously achieved multi-million dollar resolutions with Interstate Distributor, Supervalu, Sears, and Verizon of their restrictive leave policies.

If you have any questions about the requirements of the ADA as they relate to leave policies, please contact the author of this article or your Clifton Budd & DeMaria attorney.

About the Author
Daniel W. Morris
Daniel W. Morris serves as Partner at Clifton Budd & DeMaria, LLP. He focuses his practice on employment litigation in...
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