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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continued its aggressive attack against employers with inflexible disability leave policies by filing suit against an Arizona disability services company.  The EEOC alleges that the disability support services company unlawfully discriminated against disabled employees by refusing to provide them with reasonable accommodations in violation of federal law.  The defendant is an Arizona corporation which provides programs and support services for individuals with disabilities in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.

According to the EEOC's suit, employees with disabilities were fired rather than provided with reasonable accommodations due to the employer’s inflexible leave policy.  The policy compelled the termination of employees who had exhausted their paid time off and/or any unpaid leave to which they were eligible under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The EEOC alleges that one supervisor was forced out due to his need for further surgery when his FMLA leave was exhausted and the employer did not engage in any interactive process to determine whether any accommodations (including additional leave) were possible.  The EEOC claims that such conduct violates the ADA, which protects workers from discrimination based upon disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental impairments of disabled employees unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

Our earlier post, Hospital Hit for $300K for Firing Following Return from Leave, details a similar situation.  Employers need to review and update their return from leave policies.  Johnson & Bell, Ltd. has helped companies with this issue.