Indefinite Leave is Not a Reasonable Accommodation under ADA
Posted at Arkansas Employment Law by M. McClure on 04/23/2009
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently underscored an employer’s right to discharge an employee who requests an indefinite leave under the ADA. Peyton v. Fred’s Stores of Arkansas, Inc.  The court found that the employee’s request for an indefinite leave for cancer treatment was not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, and the employer did not violate the law by discharging her.

The employee began her employment as a Store Manager at Fred's Stores on December 5, 2005.  On January 9, 2006, the employee was hospitalized. While in the hospital, the employee’s manager called to ask what accommodation she needed.  The employee responded that she did not know how long she would be absent. On January 14, the employee was discharged.  The court noted that the circumstances were “unfortunate,” but upheld the termination.

The Bottom Line:  While the ruling in Peyton is very helpful for employers, it's important to note that the employee was not protected by the FMLA because of her length of service.  An employer should allow an employee to exhaust all FMLA leave and engage in the ADA interactive process before moving to termination.