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.
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.
Wagner Law Group
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Post-FMLA Leave Not Required
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.