Does an employer have to adjust attendance and leave policies for people with disabilities?
Employers are allowed to maintain a uniformly applied leave policy, which means that they do not necessarily have to adjust their polices for people with disabilities. In a specific circumstance, however, policy adjustments may be required as a reasonable accommodation.
According to the ADA Questions and Answers website, which is sponsored by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, "An employer can establish attendance and leave policies that are uniformly applied to all employees, regardless of disability, but may not refuse leave needed by an employee with a disability if other employees get such leave. An employer also may be required to make adjustments in leave policy as a reasonable accommodation. The employer is not obligated to provide additional paid leave, but accommodations may include leave flexibility and unpaid leave. A uniformly applied leave policy does not violate the ADA (simply because) it has a more severe effect on an individual because of his/her disability. However, if an individual with a disability requests a modification of such a policy as a reasonable accommodation, an employer may be required to provide it, unless it would impose an undue hardship."
An "undue hardship" is defined by the ADA Questions and Answers website as "an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation." The existence of undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis.
For more information about the ADA, visit the Knowledge Base articles How can employers keep up with how the ADA is being applied in the area of employment? and Which employers are covered by title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act?.