2016 has come to an end and it’s been busy year for disability leave management issues. The year has seen a variety of new developments, including issuance of additional guidance from administrative agencies, new leave and benefit related laws, and a slew of court opinions.  Here is a summary of some of the highlights from the year:

Administrative Guidance

In the spring of 2016, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued new rules for Employer Wellness Programs. These rules immediately became the subject of litigation.  The summer saw the issuance of enforcement guidance on the subject of retaliation, including retaliation against employees who request reasonable accommodations for a disability.  Finally, in November and December of 2016, the EEOC issued resource and guidance documents on the subjects of mental health disabilities in applicants and employees.

Sick Leave

On the subject of sick leave, Oregon became the newest state to adopt a state-wide sick leave law, joining California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. These states are soon to be joined by Vermont (January 1, 2017), Arizona (July 1, 2017) and Washington (January 1, 2018).  In addition, cities and counties across the country, from San Diego, California to Chicago, Illinois to Morristown, New Jersey enacted sick leave laws that either took effect or are expected to take effect in 2017.   Even the federal government adopted a sick leave requirement for government contractors that will apply to new solicitations and contracts beginning January 1, 2017.

While sick leaves laws continued to rise, some states have continued to enact legislation to prevent local agencies from adopting local sick leave laws. North Carolina and Arizona joined Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and others in enacting preemptive legislation to avoid the patchwork issues that have cropped in states where individual cities have enacted individual ordinances.

Benefits for Those on Leave

Paid parental leave was a hot topic and is expected to only get hotter in 2017. New York adopted a paid family leave law that will provide employees with up to 12-weeks of wage replacement benefits.  The City of San Francisco adopted an ordinance providing wage replacement benefits for employees taking time off to bond with a new child.  And ending the year with bang, on December 26, 2016, Washington, D.C, enacted significant changes to its paid leave laws to provide employees with up to eight weeks of paid time off to bond with a new child, up to six weeks of paid time off to care for a sick relative and up to two weeks of paid time off when they are sick.

Notable Court Decisions

Not to be left behind, courts across the country issued decisions that will impact how employers respond to requests for accommodations from disabled employees and applicants.  The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that held that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require that employers provide a disabled employee with a noncompetitive reassignment as an accommodation. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employee can establish causation for a disability discrimination claim if the employee can show that a discriminatory intent contributed in any way to an adverse employment action.  And courts in California further expanded disability related protections, finding that an employer’s denial of an accommodation to a nondisabled employee may serve as evidence of association discrimination under State and that an employee who was seeking medical treatment in connection with an asymptomatic tumor was potentially disabled.

2017 is just around the corner and is expected to be another exciting year in the area of disability leave management.  From all of us the disability leave management blog, we wish you a Happy New Year!

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Photo of Cepideh Roufougar Cepideh Roufougar

Cepideh Roufougar is a Principal in the San Francisco, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Ms. Roufougar is Co-Leader of the California Advice and Counsel Resource Group. She advises and counsels management in all areas of labor and employment law, with a focus…

Cepideh Roufougar is a Principal in the San Francisco, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Ms. Roufougar is Co-Leader of the California Advice and Counsel Resource Group. She advises and counsels management in all areas of labor and employment law, with a focus on identifying practical solutions to help ensure compliance with state and federal law. Ms. Roufougar positions herself as a strategic partner when providing advice and counsel about litigation avoidance, employee management issues, implementing disciplinary actions, and collective bargaining issues. Her ability to see the big picture clearly and understand her client’s businesses in emotionally charged and highly complex disputes has helped her clients financially and prevented litigation. Her clients rely on her to guide them through both short-term and long-term planning to achieve their unique goals and strategies.

Ms. Roufougar is an experienced trainer and presents seminars on a wide range of subjects, including: leave management and reasonable accommodations; preventing discrimination, harassment and retaliation; implementing and sustaining disciplinary actions; conducting defensible workplace investigations; first-line supervisor trainings; performance management/evaluations; and wage and hour issues.

Ms. Roufougar has been successful in helping her clients prevail in numerous arbitrations and administrative appeals. She has extensive experience representing employers in labor and employment disputes. She has defended employers in employment litigation matters, including claims alleging violations of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, FLSA collective actions, and claims of harassment and discrimination. Ms. Roufougar also conducts complex workplace investigations.

Before joining Jackson Lewis, Ms. Roufougar practiced at a well-regarded local labor and employment firm and served as in-house counsel for a local public agency.