How the ADA Protects the Right to Time Off for Disabilities

Published on January 10th, 2018

Working with a disability can be difficult to manage, and at times changes to schedules need to be made so that the individual can handle what they need to so that they can stay productive. Those schedule changes may include the need to take time off, and under certain circumstances the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a federal law, requires that the time off be granted without threat of losing the job.

Americans with Disabilities Act

When Does the ADA Protect Time Off

The ADA requires that time off be granted to qualified employees that have disabilities as a reasonable accommodation when:

– All education, training, experience and job requirements have been met by the employee, and

– The employee has shown that they can perform the required job duties

If the above criteria haven’t been met then the employee is not eligible to take time off which would be required by the ADA. If the business is subjected to an undue burden, they have less than 50 employees or the individual will no longer be able to perform the essential job duties even with accommodations then the employer is not bound by the ADA to offer time off.

Legal Requirements for Reasonable Accommodations and Discrimination Protection

Sometimes employers are required to treat disabled employees different than others because they need to provide some sort of accommodation for the employee to do the job. Sometimes these are small changes, such as adjusting the height of a desk to accommodate a wheelchair, or granting a diabetic employee with more break time to check their blood sugar levels. For most employees that begin to suffer from a disability their employer must make a reasonable effort to provide an effective accommodation so that the employee can continue to meet the job standards. Checking with disability insurance policies may help determine what is a reasonable accommodation.

While providing accommodations does single out the disabled individual because of their disability, that does not make it discrimination. Discrimination occurs when privileges or protections that are otherwise required are taken from an individual because of their condition. Blocking promotions, making jokes at the individuals expense, declining leave requests or other harassments due to the disability are protected against. Disabled employees are entitled to all of the same benefits as any other employee, and denying them based on the disability is unlawful discrimination.

Time Off Granted as an Accommodation

Some specific factors have been taken into account when time off is requested as a reasonable accommodation, and these factors help determine if it will be an undue hardship on the employer. If the leave would overly burden the business then federal law has been ruled to allow the employer to terminate the services of a disabled employee. The major things considered are:

How much time off will be needed. Depending on how long the employee will need to be away from the job can make the difference between reasonable accommodation and hardship. If the employee can have a date of return set, then depending on the role of the employee they will likely be able to take the time off. If there is no set deadline then it may be necessary to replace the individual for the business to maintain the necessary functions of the job.

The essential needs of the job require regular attendance. If the job specifically requires that someone be present to perform the job, then taking time off may mean the employee is no longer able to meet the job requirements, even with other accommodations, so they may be let go.

Time off allowed for similar issues. If the business allows extended leave for other issues, then denying leave for a disabled employee may be considered discrimination.

Disabled individuals should also check their disability insurance policies to see if other aid may be granted to assist them through issues that could force time off to be needed.


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