Another Reminder – Termination of Employment at End of Disability Leave is Not OK

We previously posted about how employer policies that provide for automatic termination of employees who cannot return to work at the end of FMLA covered leave run afoul of the ADA. On a related note, an employer who fails to provide reasonable accommodation to employees at the end of an ADA based leave of absence may also violate the law.

Back in 2011, Supervalu, Inc., a supermarket chain, entered into a consent decree with the EEOC whereby Supervalu was enjoined from failing to provide reasonable accommodations to employees seeking to return to work from a disability leave of absence. As part of the consent decree, Supervalu was also required to send written return-to-work offers to employees on disability leave when the employees on leave could be accommodated. Despite the injunction, Supervalu failed to send letters to eligible employees on disability leave, and was held in contempt on March 21, 2013 for failing to comply with the consent decree.

The Supervalu contempt ruling is a reminder that employers should not automatically terminate an employee at the expiration of a disability based leave of absence. Instead, before making any decision about the employee’s continued employment, employers should determine whether a reasonable accommodation would allow the employee to return to work and reach out to the employee to discuss their return and whether such return is possible with a reasonable accommodation.

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