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Sep 4, 2012

By Eric B. Meyer

Readers of this blog know (here, here, and here) that if a disabled employee requests an indefinite leave of absence from work, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require you to provide it.

Why? Because that accommodation is not reasonable.

Last week, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reconfirmed in this opinion that an employee request for an indefinite break from performing the essential functions of the employee’s job is also unreasonable. Therefore, if presented with that request, you politely decline.

Engaging in an interactive dialogue

That said, if an employee comes to you with what appears to be an unreasonable ADA accommodation request, don’t just say no and end the conversation. Remember employers: the ADA requires an interactive dialogue. That’s a back and forth whereby you may ascertain a reasonable accommodation that will allow the employee to perform essential job functions.

So, if an employee requests an indefinite leave from work or similar reprieve from essential job functions, consider reassignment to a vacant position (assuming one exists) that will allow that employee to return to work. Another option would be to acquire or modify equipment, if doing so would not cause undue burden.

Ultimately, it may be that a reasonable accommodation does not exist. But, do explore some options and, whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s documented.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.