Notes from Colorado DMEC: Leave as an Accommodation

This week, many members of the Optis team attended the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Colorado Chapter’s quarterly meeting, “Absence Policies to Consider from Three Legal Perspectives.” The sessions clearly focused around absence – a topic near and dear to the hearts of many Optis employees.

What was particularly interesting about one of the sessions was that it focused on leave for an absence type not clearly defined: Leave as an ADA accommodation.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires reasonable accommodations when necessary so that people with disabilities can perform the essential functions of their jobs, unless doing so would constitute an undue hardship to the employer. Leaves of absence—including those beyond an employer’s permitted number of days off—can constitute reasonable accommodations.” Source.

As you can imagine, this law brings up many questions for employers as navigating the details of what is ‘reasonable’ can be a challenge.

To help us understand ‘reasonable,’ the speakers provided several scenarios where a leave of absence would be the best accommodation for an employee and offered insights into how much leave would be appropriate.

Several interesting discussions sprouted among the DMEC members including when FMLA would be a factor, what would constitute an undue hardship, and how the EEOC defines ‘reasonable.’

Intrigued by the discussions and need for more understanding among the employers, we came back to the office and dug up a couple of resources for those who may need some guidance when facilitating a leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Employer Best Practices: Examining the Use of “Leave” as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act