Illinois Bakery to Answer in Litigation for Return-To-Work and Leave Policies

September 06, 2016

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against a bakery claiming it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to accommodate an employee with a disability, fired her, and failed to rehire her. Applying its return-to-work and leave policies, the Company allegedly refused to let the long-term employee to return to work from medical leave. The Employee developed CSP myelopathy, a condition affecting the spinal cord, as a result of an injury outside the workplace. This condition required the Employee to take a leave of absence to have surgery. While recuperating, the Employee sought to return to work with restrictions in a temporary light-duty capacity. But the Employee was purportedly told she was ineligible because that type of work was reserved for employees injured on the job. The Employee remained on leave and was terminated for failure to return to work at the expiration of 180 days as required by Company’s leave policy. When the Employee was released to full duty a month later, the Employee sought rehire but was denied. "Employers need to understand that they are required to make their light-duty programs available to employees with disabilities who are recuperating from restrictions, even if they are unrelated to an on-the-job injury," explained the EEOC.