EEOC Says Health System’s Leave Policies Violate ADA

August 13, 2010 ( - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit that Princeton HealthCare System violated federal law by failing to reasonably accommodate the needs of its employees who needed medical leave, and then firing them because of their disabilities.

According to the suit, Princeton HealthCare System enforces leave policies that do not provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability. Princeton HealthCare fires employees who are not qualified for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if they cannot return to work within seven days, and refuses to grant leave beyond the 12 weeks allowed by the FMLA.   

The organization does not grant exceptions to these policies for qualified individuals with disabilities who need additional leave as a reasonable accommodation, which the EEOC said violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities unless it would cause an undue hardship to the employer, and the EEOC said a leave of absence is a form of reasonable accommodation.  

According to an EEOC press release, more than a dozen employees with disabilities who requested a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation were denied leave and were fired by Princeton HealthCare.  

“The goal of the ADA is to provide equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, in the announcement. “The unfortunate reality is that too many companies discriminate against persons with disabilities by strictly applying blanket leave policies.”  

Princeton HealthCare System operates University Medical Center at Princeton and related health care facilities in Mercer County.