Post-Partum Depression Can be Substantially Limiting under the ADA

We have posted in the past about employee leaves of absence as a reasonable accommodation.  In a recent EEOC settlement, the employer had refused to let an employee take leave for post-partum depression, despite a policy that provided leave.  The employer claimed that leave was not possible because having an employee in her position was critical (presumably, an undue hardship). Yet, because the employer did not fill the employee’s position until more than one month after it fired her for attendance problems, and the replacement employee did not start for another three months, the employer’s “critical” argument was suspect.

In writing about the settlement, the EEOC explained that although post-partum depression is not a permanent condition, because it had substantially limited more than one of the employee’s major life activities for several months when she was fired, the condition was substantially limiting under the ADA, and the employee was protected from discrimination under the ADA.  Accordingly, an employer can violate the ADA by refusing to provide leave to an eligible employee suffering from post-partum depression.

Employers need to carefully analyze employee requests for accommodation and avoid restrictive definitions of disability (especially given the broad reach of the ADA Amendments Act).

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