UPS Delivers Cautionary Tale

By John Doran

Maximum leave policies are ubiquitous.  These policies typically state that an employee who does not/cannot return from leave within a specified period (e.g. 12 months) will be discharged.  Last year the EEOC issued “guidance” reminding employers that it views maximum leave policies as a violation of the ADA.  Last week the EEOC settled a long-running case with UPS involving maximum leave policies.  The EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in 2009, claimed that UPS’s maximum leave policy discriminated against disabled workers because it left no room for accommodation upon expiration of twelve months leave.  Under the settlement, UPS agreed to pay $1.7 million to a class of workers and to create new mechanisms within the entire organization to ensure a prior legal review of any termination of an employee who has reached the end of a medical leave.  Whether the EEOC is right or wrong on maximum leave policies under the ADA, it clearly litigates to enforce its position.  Employers are wise to look at their leave policies to ensure they do not run afoul of the EEOC’s interpretation of the ADA.