An employer has a no-fault point based attendance policy. Employees are given points when they miss work. An employee tells them the reason for missing work is due to a medical condition.
“Can the employer give that employee points due to attendance issues? Is not giving points considered a reasonable accommodation?”
If Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) circumstances apply, then the employer would need to provide the employee with the applicable forms to have the condition medically certified by their treating physician. If the certification matches the attendance, then they could not give the employee points. Read further details on administering FMLA in our past blog: 12 Weeks of FMLA
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a similar process is followed. Once the employee has disclosed a medical condition is the reason for poor attendance, the employer needs to begin the “interactive process”. The interactive process involves asking for medical documentation to support the medical condition. Even though employees should be treated consistently under a no-fault attendance policy, the company may need to make exceptions to their point system as a reasonable accommodation. (i.e., employee is put on medical leave of absence; employee may have periodic issues related to their medical condition, etc.)
Do not automatically assume that an employee has a recurring medical condition due to past behaviors. Making quick assumptions regarding an employee’s medical conditions could be considered discrimination. Its important to follow company policy and address the attendance issues with the employee directly. If at this point you would be required to assign attendance points due to company policy, then this is when the employee could explain they are dealing with a medical issue and the employer can request medical documentation. If the attendance matches the medical documentation, then no points should be assigned. If the attendance does not match the documentation, then inform the employee that the medical documentation does not match their need for time away from work and request clarification.
What will be considered a ‘reasonable accommodation’ is based upon what is the needed accommodation and if the company/role is able to make the requested accommodations. It is based on a case by case factor and may not be reasonable in some cases. It is the burden of the employer to prove that an accommodation request is unreasonable; simply stating it is unreasonable, with no valid facts to support that claim will not suffice.
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