The legal obligation to accommodate disabled workers

The Family and Medical Leave Act enables eligible workers in Texas and around the country to take time off to care for themselves or family members under certain circumstances. The law requires employers to protect their jobs for 12 weeks. If an individual's medical circumstances become disabling, then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains that the legal protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act would prevent employers from terminating the jobs of people with ongoing medical problems.

In August, the EEOC asserted this position in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman fired after taking medical leave. Court filings indicate that the employer should have accommodated her need to continue treatment for breast cancer. The employer approved leave for the woman between June 2015 and September 2015 although she had requested a leave through November of that year. When she could not return to work after September, she lost her job and now seeks damages.

In the view of the EEOC, medical leave represents an acceptable form of accommodation, and no statute limits the duration of a disability leave. The commission has determined that employers should consider each case individually and not impose a time limit. For this reason, UPS settled employee claims for $1.7 million because the company's 12-month leave policy did not provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate the specific needs of individual workers.

When people take medical leave from work, they are often in a vulnerable position and reliant upon the law to protect their jobs. A person who lost a job after taking leave or suffered retaliation after requesting other disability accommodations could meet with an attorney who is familiar with the Americans With Disabilities Act to learn what recourse might be available.

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