The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals may have indicated a new approach in a thorny issue for employers and employees alike. Since the 7th Circuit has jurisdiction over Wisconsin and neighboring states, the ruling of the court will have the most effect here. The Family and Medical Leave Act gives employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take in the event of a medical need, but what is the responsibility of the employer to offer reasonable accommodation after that? 

In the event of leave after leave, the Americans with Disabilities Act says that an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation but does not give time parameters. So, it is possible that, after the 12 weeks of FMLA runs out, an employee could be granted additional time under the ADA. This could potentially leave employers running at a deficit without a needed employee and also being unable to hire a new one. 

In the case of Severson vs. Hartline Woodcraft, Inc., the employee requested two additional months of leave after his FMLA leave had expired. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruled that a medical leave that spanned multiple months did not allow the worker to perform the essential functions of his job, and so, the company did not have to grant the additional leave. In that case, he did not fall into an ADA protected class.

The regional court ruling may affect employers and employees in Wisconsin, but still, situations should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Not every illness of disability will affect a worker’s ability in the same way. If a worker has been denied additional leave, either under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the ADA, they may wish to consult with an employment law attorney for an analysis of the case. 

Source:, “Court Hands Victory To Employer In Leave After Leave Battle“, Myra K. Creighton, Nov. 8, 2017

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