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Court Upholds Employers' Right to Limit Medical Leaves

Stuart Edward Payne worked as a mechanic for the Fairfax County, Va., Department of Vehicle Services in 2001 when a doctor diagnosed him with panic disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and Epstein-Barr disease. In October 2001, he began taking intermittent leave under the FMLA. He exhausted all 480 hours of his FMLA leave over the next 12 months, and all but 60 hours in the following year. Between Oct. 1, 2003, and Aug. 3, 2004, he again used all 480 hours. When he requested sick leave through Sept. 30, his department manager denied his request.

On Sept. 15, 2004, Payne voluntarily retired and two days later, apparently unaware of his retirement, the county informed him that he could resign or face termination. Payne then filed a complaint in federal court, alleging violations of his rights under the FMLA, the ADA and the Fairfax County Human Rights Ordinance.

In doing so, the court relied on a regulation stating that the FMLA is "not intended to modify or affect the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or the regulations issued under the Act." The court concluded that "the statutes should be read independently, and if an employee cannot perform the essential function of attendance, even if due to FMLA leave, then the employee is still not a 'qualified individual' within the meaning of the ADA."

Staying Power

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Mary Swanton

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