An employee who is disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act can seek unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation. A Tennessee District Court (Tennessee, along with Michigan, are part of the Sixth Circuit) granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. The Defendant’s termination notice provided that Plaintiff was being terminated because she could not longer do the required tasks of her job and her long-term disability.
The Court said that “[t[he ADA was enacted to counterbalance society’s historic tendency to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities.” An employer has a duty not to discriminate if an employee can perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodations. In this case, not exploring whether additional unpaid leave would be an undue hardship on the employer was sufficient for the court to determine that the Plaintiff had been discriminated against. This case illustrates an important point that is often overlooked - FMLA is not the only protection an individual has for missing work. As long as the employee has a qualifying disability, the employer needs to explore whether or not it is a reasonable accommodation and not an undue hardship. The case is Coffman v.. Robert J. Young Co., Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68064 (May 14, 2012)