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Eleventh Circuit Finds That Repeated Extensions of a Leave of Absence is Not A Reasonable Accommodation

In addressing a disability discrimination claim under the ADA, the Eleventh Circuit ruled this past week that an indefinite leave of absence does not constitute a reasonable accommodation.  (See Santandreau v Miami Dade County, March 21, 2013).  Because of his various stress-related disorders, the plaintiff employee requested and received a three-month medical leave beginning in January of 2006.  He subsequently requested and received a four-month extension, and then a six-month extension of his leave.  In January of 2007, the defendant employer granted yet another extension of leave, through May 4, 2007, but refused to grant any more extensions beyond that date.  The employee sued, claiming that the employer failed to accommodate his disability.  Although recognizing that a leave of absence can constitute a reasonable accommodation, the court held that the ADA does not require an employer to provide leave for an indefinite period of time.  Because the employee was still uncertain about the duration of his medical condition and had received multiple extensions of leave, his request for more leave had become unreasonable.  The court therefore affirmed the dismissal of the claim.  The decision indicates that while an employee may be entitled to a leave of absence for a specific time period as a reasonable accommodation, the employee is probably not entitled to receive repeated extensions of such leave. 

CONTACT: Cole D. Bond

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