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Employers nationally contemplating ADA with uncertainty

Following is a hypothetical that many Ohio employers might reasonably consider with uncertainty and even notable stress.

Imagine that one of your workers has a medical condition he responds to by taking time off that is allowed him under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. After using all of the mandated 12 weeks leave time afforded by the FMLA, he requests additional time off under the Americans with Disabilities Act, owing to his reportedly unimproved condition.

Do you need to grant his request? What does the ADA stipulate concerning extra leave time beyond exhausted entitlement under the FMLA?

Some commentators -- and, notably, one federal circuit court -- hold that the ADA does not require employers in Ohio or elsewhere to grant multiple-month leave periods, as some workers have requested. Other close students of the ADA say that, while unlimited time off is certainly not a requirement, a more consensus view holds that company principals might need to grant a months-long ADA leave request to safely comply with the law. And some pundits feel that putting any so-called "hard limit" at all on disability leave is legally problematic, even if a company grants something as liberal as a 12-month leave policy.

Candidly, and as noted in a recent article on the current legal status of disability-linked leave under the ADA, things are in flux across the country. No bright judicial line has emerged to guide business decision makers or court outcomes in management/employee disputes.

A litigant in one recently concluded appellate case (which he lost) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and reconsider his case. He hopes the court will find in his favor and, in the process, announce a clarifying national standard that will control all disability leave cases across the country.

We shall be sure to report the material details to readers in the event the court takes his case and unifies the lower courts by providing clarification on the matter.

 

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