Dealing with Issues Involving Employee Medical Leaves
When an employee asks for a medical leave, are you justified in firing the employee?
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a lawsuit against Dunkin’ Donuts when the owner refused to grant medical leave to a regional manager. The lawsuit alleged that Joan O’Donnell had successfully performed her job, managing the stores at a number of the Dunkin’ Donuts locations. When diagnosed with breast cancer, she emailed the owner and explained she needed a medical leave to receive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Instead of granting her the medical leave, the company abruptly discharged her due to her disability just before starting the requested leave.
She took the matter to the EEOC. However, when the EEOC conciliation process failed to
reach a settlement with Dunkin’ Donuts, the EEOC filed a lawsuit.
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) , employers with 50 or more employees must grant a medical leave of up to 12 weeks when an employee has a serious health condition and requests a medical leave. Under the FMLA, a disability can involve anything from pregnancy and serious illness to injuries, impairments and physical or mental conditions that require a number of treatments and absences from work. The leave is unpaid, or employers can require the worker to take a paid leave, such as paid vacation time accrued along with the medical leave to cover the time absent from work.
To legally disapprove a medical leave, companies must show that the medical leave would impose undue hardship on the company. The EEOC alleges that a medical leave for breast cancer treatment constitutes a reasonable accommodation and the law requires the employer to accommodate the employee. Also, Dunkin’ Donuts meets the 50 employees requisite for granting medical leaves.
If you have a question about your rights as an employer and whether you must grant a medical leave, you should consult with an experienced employment litigation lawyer.
For decades, Stephen Hans & Associates has provided legal advice and litigation for business owners, helping them with legal compliance and employment disputes.