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The Wagner Law Group

The Wagner Law Group is a nationally recognized practice in the areas of ERISA and employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor and human resources and investment management.

 

Established in 1996, The Wagner Law Group is dedicated to the highest standards of integrity, excellence and thought leadership and is considered to be amongst the nation's premier ERISA and employee benefits law firms. The firm has seven offices across the country, providing unparalleled legal advice to its clients, including large, small and nonprofit corporations as well as individuals and government entities worldwide. The Wagner Law Group's 34 attorneys, senior benefits consultant and five paralegals combine many years of experience in their fields of practice with a variety of backgrounds. Seven of the attorneys are AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell and six are Fellows of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, an invitation-only organization of nationally recognized employee benefits lawyers.  Seven of the firm's attorneys have been named to the prestigious Super Lawyers list for 2017, which highlights outstanding lawyers based on a rigorous selection process.

 

 

 

Contact Info

The Wagner Law Group

 

  Integrity | Excellence

  

Boston 

Tel: (617) 357-5200 

Fax: (617) 357-5250 

99 Summer Street 

13th Floor

Boston, MA 02110

 

Washington, D.C.

Tel: (202) 969-2800

 

Fax: (202) 969-2568

 800 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.

Suite 810

Washington, D.C. 20006

 

Chicago

Tel: (847) 990-9034

Fax: (847) 557-1312

190 South LaSalle Street

Suite 2100

Chicago, IL 60603

 

  

Palm Beach Gardens 

Tel: (561) 293-3590
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Suite 125
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

   

Tampa

Tel: (813) 603-2959

Fax: (813) 603-2961

101 East Kennedy Boulevard

Suite 2140
Tampa, FL  33602 

  

San Francisco

Tel: (415) 625-0002

Fax: (415) 358-8300

300 Montgomery Street

Suite 600

San Francisco, CA 94104

  

St. Louis

Tel: (314) 236-0065

Fax: (314) 236-5743
25 W. Moody Avenue
St. Louis, MO  63119 

 

Lincoln, MA

Tel: (617) 532-8080

Fax: (617) 532-9090

55 Old Bedford Road

Lincoln, MA 01773

 

 

www.wagnerlawgroup.com

 

 

 

Post-FMLA Leave Not Required Under ADA

May 10, 2018

 

 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., which leaves standing a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision concerning the availability of extended leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").

Background. The plaintiff took Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave due to a back injury that required surgery. After exhausting his FMLA leave, the plaintiff requested that his employer provide several months of additional leave to allow him to recuperate and return to work. The employer rejected this request and terminated the plaintiff, but encouraged him to reapply for employment when he recovered. In response, the employee sued the employer in federal court, claiming the employer had failed to provide "reasonable accommodation" under the ADA by denying his request for additional leave.

The district court reviewing the matter ruled in favor of the employer and dismissed the plaintiff's claims. In turn, the plaintiff appealed to the Seventh Circuit.

Seventh Circuit. In reviewing the matter, the Seventh Circuit upheld the district court's decision to dismiss the plaintiff's claims. In particular, the Seventh Circuit concluded that leave requests beyond FMLA leave that extend for more than a brief period of time are never required under the ADA.

The Seventh Circuit noted that the ADA defines a reasonable accommodation as an accommodation that allows an "otherwise qualified" disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the employment position. As a result, if the proposed accommodation does not allow the employee to perform his job, then the employee is not a "qualified" as defined under the ADA. Accordingly, the Seventh Circuit concluded that "an extended leave of absence does not give a disabled individual the means to work; it excuses his not working." Therefore, employees who are unable to perform their duties for extended periods of time are not "qualified" as defined by the ADA.

Interestingly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") had filed an amicus brief in the matter that supported the plaintiff's claims. Specifically, EEOC argued that a long-term leave of absence should qualify as a reasonable accommodation when the leave is: (i) of a definite, time-limited duration; (ii) requested in advance; and (iii) likely to enable the employee to perform the essential job functions when he returns.

The Seventh Circuit rejected the EEOC's interpretation of the ADA, finding that if "employees are entitled to extended time off as a reasonable accommodation, the ADA would be transformed into a medical leave statute-in effect, an open-ended extension of the FMLA."    

Employer Takeaway. The Severson holding means that employers in the Seventh Circuit are not obligated to provide long-term additional leave to employees who exhaust FMLA leave because doing so would convert the ADA into a medical leave statute. Important to note, however, is that the Seventh Circuit's holding in Severson stands in opposition to four other federal appellate courts and the EEOC, so the U.S. Supreme Court may revisit this issue at some time in the future.

 

 

 

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This Newsletter is provided for information purposes by The Wagner Law Group to clients and others who may be interested in the subject matter, and may not be relied upon as specific legal advice.  This material is not to be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. Under the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered advertising.