Am I protected under the ADA for medical leave under 6 months that was approved by the company?

I was employed at a large financial institution of 49,000 employees almost 16 months ago. A little over a year ago, I went on non-FMLA medical leave due to a psychiatric condition disability. This should be protected under the

ADA. Upon release of the hospital, I found my job had been replaced, which at the time was only less than 2 months later, so it is safe to assume they immediately began searching for a replacement. I’m not sure that my absence had caused them undue hardship as they are a large company and also could’ve hired a temporary worker. About 7 months ago, I finally received notice from the doctor that I may return to work. My employer informed me that I had 90 days from then to find a job within the company or become automatically terminated. I

was unsuccessful and thus terminated. Is this automatic termination illegal? In the EEOC v. Chase case, Chase had to pay 2.2 million to 222 employees who were terminated after they exceeded 6 months of leave. I spent less than 6 months on leave. Are they obligated to place me in a position? Am I entitled to reinstatement into the

same position I used to hold despite the new hire? I have been seeing a therapist for the emotional distress depression and anxiety that unemployment has been causing me. What can I expect from a lawsuit or settlement?

Asked on May 28, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The ADA requires a "reasonable accommodation," which is a change in policy or procedure (i.e. how a job is done) or the provision of some assistive device, which is not too expensive or disruptive for the employer. Not being at work, however, is *not* considered a reasonable accommodation, since--
1) It is disruptive to have an absent employee and have to hold a position or him/her; and 
2) The whole purpose of a reasonable accommodation is to allow the employee to *do* the job--but being out means you're not doing it anyway.
Because being absent from work is not a reasonable accommodation, that is why they had to pass the FMLA--to allow leave not guaranteed by the ADA. The ADA will not help in this situation.


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