A recent appellate court ruling may affect the ability of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to challenge "inflexible" employer leave policies, policies that result in the termination of employees who are unable to return to work after the fixed leave period, as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. In Hwang v. Kansas State University, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that an employer's adherence to an inflexible six-month maximum leave policy did not violate the Rehabilitation Act.
The ruling could slow the momentum that the EEOC has gathered over the past several years in its aggressive pursuit of employer maximum leave policies that do not take into account additional leave as a form of reasonable accommodation. Due to the EEOC's widely publicized successes in securing multimillion-dollar settlements and consent decrees, many employers heeded the EEOC's suggestions and guidance by modifying maximum leave policies to provide for appropriate flexibility regarding the termination of employees who are out on extended medical leaves.
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