Disability Leave

What Is Disability Leave?

Disability leave is a type of leave of absence that is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Unlike sick days or other time off, disability leave is not accrued. Rather, it is protected under the law as a disability accommodation.

Disability from work can be given to an employee when they are unable to perform the essential tasks of their job, regardless of whether accommodations are provided or not, due to a medical issue. Essentially, disability leave is considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

Employees can also take a form of disability leave under the FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act.

How Long Can You Be On Disability From Work?

The ADA doesn’t define a set maximum amount of time that someone can be on a disability from work. Theoretically, you can be on disability leave indefinitely. However, case law does not currently support that.

The amount of time you can spend on leave hinges on the word “reasonable” — employers must make “reasonable” accommodations for employees with disabilities, and one of those accommodations is leave. To be considered reasonable, the leave must not impose undue hardship on the employer.

If the employee is taking leave under the FMLA, they are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave.

Who Pays for it?

It is not always paid, so in some cases, no one is paying for it. If the leave is paid, then it is typically paid for through a short-term disability or long-term disability insurance plan. In that case, the insurance company pays for the leave.

What Conditions Qualify for it?

The ADA does not specify a list of specific conditions that qualify as disabilities. Instead, it states that someone has a disability if they have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.”


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