EEOC targets blanket leave of absence and
attendance policies for ADA violations. BY MARY SWANTON
“No fault” attendance
policies also in
Not too long ago, a maxim in employment policies was to treat all employees equally, thus
assuring no one would be discriminated against for their race, sex, age or national origin.
¶ Unfortunately for many employers, this led to blanket policies that are now coming back to
bite them. That’s because the one-size-fits-all approach, when implemented in leave of absence
or attendance policies, runs smack into the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA
specifically rejects the standardized policies and calls for individualized assessments for every
employee qualifying as disabled under
tions qualifying as disabilities, coupled
with an aging workforce subject to more
medical issues, have made ADA compliance a growing issue for employers and a
top priority for EEOC enforcement.
Maatman says ADA issues generally,
and leave of absence policies specifically,
are on the EEOC’s short list of “
hot-button issues” for 2012.
“A blanket policy with generalizations, such as, ‘Anyone off work for a
certain period of time will be terminated,’
raises a red flag for the EEOC,” he says.
“Full Duty” Failure
Two large settlements in 2011 illustrate
the policies the EEOC is targeting.
In January, the Jewel-Osco food store
chain agreed to pay $3.2 million
and undertake several remedial
relief steps to settle an EEOC suit
alleging the company terminated
scores of employees when their
leaves of absence ended instead
of offering them the opportunity
to return to work with reasonable accommodations. As part of
the settlement, Jewel-Osco agreed
to assure employees on disability leave that they do not need to
be 100 percent healed in order to
return to work and inform them of
possible accommodations if they
return with medical restrictions.
“Employers are still stumbling over the concept of requiring
employees to return to work ‘full