Request for a Few Weeks or a Few Months of Leave Was Not Reasonable

June 28, 2018

An employee’s request for “a few weeks or a few months” of leave was deemed to be a request for indefinite leave, which is not a reasonable accommodation as a matter of law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The employee sustained a shoulder injury that prevented him from performing his job. The employee asked for “a few weeks or a few months” of leave. The Third Circuit noted that, under the ADA, “a short period of definite leave [that] would enable an employee to perform his essential job functions in the near future” is a reasonable accommodation. In this case, however, “the request for leave here specified neither a leave for a definite period, nor a return in the near future.” Accordingly, the Third Circuit deemed it to be a request for indefinite leave, which is not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

This ruling is interesting because, in our experience, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would likely consider the request as one for a definite amount of up to “a few months” of leave, rather than an open-ended (i.e. “indefinite”) leave. Yet it appears that the Third Circuit would view even that amount as being beyond the “short period of definite leave” that would be reasonable. If so, the Third Circuit would join the Seventh Circuit, which recently held that two to three months of leave was not a reasonable accommodation.