Supreme Court to Consider the Allowable Duration of ADA Leave

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workers are given the right to take a leave from work. However, the exact duration of the leave is not specified in the act, and there is disagreement on the issue in different appellate courts across the country. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to make a definitive ruling on this issue.

The case in question is Severson vs. Heartland Woodcraft Inc. In 2013, worker Raymond Severson—who was suffering from a back injury—took a 12-month leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). On the final day of his leave, he underwent back surgery. He required an additional three months of recovery time from the surgery and was consequently unable to resume work when his FMLA leave expired. He was fired.

Severson claims he should have been granted additional time off under the ADA. The 7th Circuit court disagrees, holding that multi-month leave is not within the scope of the ADA.

Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) contends that the 7th Circuit court has misunderstood the intent of the ADA. It cautions against putting any limit on the duration of leave allowable under the ADA—even if it’s a year or more. In a similar case, the EEOC recently reached a $2 million settlement with the United Parcel Service (UPS) after suing over extended, multi-month ADA leave.

The ambiguity in the terms of the ADA as well as the disagreement among the appellate courts has many people hoping the Supreme Court will accept the case and settle the dispute once and for all.