N.J. Hospital to Pay $1.35 Million to Settle EEOC’s Lawsuit Alleging Leave Policy Violated ADA

The EEOC doesn’t like maximum leave policies. If you put a cap on the leave you will allow your employees to take for medical leave, you’d better have a policy flexible enough that permits employees who have used up their leave to take more leave as a reasonable accommodation. Otherwise, you are asking to be sued.

Latest case in point. Earlier this month the EEOC announced it had settled an American With Disabilities Act lawsuit against a N.J. healthcare system that it said had illegally imposed a 12-week cap on leave and fired workers who were out of work for longer than that.

According to the EEOC, Princeton Healthcare System, which operates an inpatient hospital and several outpatient medical facilities, limited employee leave to a maximum of 12 weeks, tracking  the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“PHCS’s policy meant that employees who were not eligible for FMLA leave were fired after being absent for a short time, and many more were fired once they were out more than 12 weeks,” the EEOC said in announcing the case had been settled for $1.35 million.

Under the settlement, PHCS is prohibited from having a blanket policy that limits the amount of leave time an employee covered by the ADA may take.  It must instead engage in an interactive process with covered employees, including employees with a disability related to pregnancy, when deciding how much leave is needed.

In addition, it can no longer require employees returning from disability leave to present a fitness for duty certification stating that they are able to return to work without any restrictions. PHCS also agreed that it will not subject employees to progressive discipline for ADA-related absences, and will provide training on the ADA to its workforce.

So an important point to consider: Pregnancy, as a temporary disability, may necessitate more than 12 weeks or other fixed leave.

Read more about the settlement here.


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