Employer must consider Reasonable Accommodations after FMLA expires

On March 3, 2017, Real Estate Services giant Cushman & Wakefield, headquartered in Chicago), agreed to a $100,000 settlement with the EEOC to resolve a disability lawsuit involving an Administrative Assistant with breast cancer.  A nine (9) year employee requested a medical leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for breast cancer treatment.  As a reasonable accommodation, the employee requested to return to work on a part-time basis while she underwent treatment and advised the company that she might need additional unpaid leave after her surgery.  The EEOC lawsuit alleged that Cushman & Wakefield fired the employee (on or about the date her FMLA leave expired) instead of allowing her to work part-time or providing another reasonable accommodation that would have allowed her to remain employed. Prior to the expiration of FMLA, the employee submitted a return to work letter from her oncologist permitting part-time work (up to 25 hours per week).  The Company stated that it could not accommodate her part-time schedule request. The ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities, such as modified work schedule or unpaid leave.  Compliance with the FMLA, and not considering the ADA, does not meet employer obligations.

In addition to the cash settlement, Cushman & Wakefield agreed to:

  • revise and distribute to all employees a reasonable accommodation policy, which lists part-time and unpaid leave as examples of accommodations.
  • annual training to all location managers, supervisors and HR personnel
  • inform new employees about reasonable accommodation policy
  • report to EEOC on how it handles employee complaints
  • post notice regarding settlement

Read the EEOC’s Complaint and Jury Trial Demand (Case 1:16-cv-02788-JKB) Northern District of Maryland.

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