Employers have a legal obligation to accommodate work-related conflicts posed by an employee's or applicant's disability or religious beliefs. This seems simple enough - be "reasonable." Yet as many business professionals and lawyers know all too well, there is a great deal of room for differences of opinion as to what constitutes a "reasonable accommodation." Considerable effort (and litigation) has gone into defining what is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (for religion). For its part the EEOC has routinely pushed the envelope; it expects employers to go to great lengths to satisfy their obligation to reasonably accommodate workers. Recent cases dealing with accommodations in the form of service dogs, sign-language interpreters, extended leaves of absence and adjusted work schedules, are just some of the positions taken by the EEOC in litigation (with varying degrees of success). Here are some examples:
"The ADA is an antidiscrimination statute, not a medical-leave entitlement." These are the words employers have been waiting more than 25 years to hear, since the date the ADA first became effective, and even more so after the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993. They address an issue that has vexed employers since day one; that is, whether the duty to accommodate requires an employer to provide an extended medical leave after an employee has exhausted all of the medical leave available to him under the FMLA. The EEOC has vigorously contended that it does, particularly where the proposed leave is of a definite, time limited duration; requested in advance; and, likely to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of his job upon his return. On September 20, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals flatly rejected the EEOC's contention.