The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has just issued one of the most significant decisions for employers in the nearly thirty-year history of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, LLC, the court decided that long-term medical leave is not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Here's the key holding:
Intermittent time off or a short leave of absence—say, a couple of days or even a couple of weeks—may, in appropriate circumstances, be analogous to a part-time or modified work schedule, two of the examples listed in § 12111(9). But a medical leave spanning multiple months does not permit the employee to perform the essential functions of his job. To the contrary, the “inability to work for a multi-month period removes a person from the class protected by the ADA.”>
Employers should tread carefully when applying this ruling to decisions about employee medical leave. The Seventh Circuit's position is at odds with other federal courts and the EEOC, and there is still time for the full Seventh Circuit (beyond the three-judge panel in this case) to consider the issue.
Check out the full opinion here.