- The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., No. 15-3754 (7th Cir. Sept. 20, 2017), a controversial appeals court ruling that held that "a multimonth leave of absence is beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- The Court said it received a petition Jan. 18; the justices will decide whether to take up the case in a future conference.
- The ruling, considered a major win for employers, was said to have "sent shockwaves" through the employment community.
Until Severson, courts had generally found that leave beyond what the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires could be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has long held this position and, in recent years, had cracked down on employers that maintained "no fault" attendance policies under which employees were automatically terminated after absences of a certain length.
The 7th Circuit's ruling was considered a massive win for employers and a major blow to the EEOC's position. "If, as the EEOC argues, employees are entitled to extended time off as a reasonable accommodation, the ADA is transformed into a medical-leave statute — in effect, an open-ended extension of the FMLA," the court said. "That’s an untenable interpretation of the term 'reasonable accommodation.'"
Should the High Court agree to hear the case, a resolution would still likely be months away.