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Last week, I attended the ABA Annual Labor & Employment Law Conference — something I’ve written about on this blog pre-pandemic (remember when?).

There were many good programs and I’ll try to talk about some of the other topics in an upcoming blog post or two.

However, one topic that I was interested in was the discussion about managing leaves of absences.  In some ways, what the speakers said just reinforced certain truisms in employment law such as “Intermittent leave is a nightmare”.

But there were a few helpful suggestions that are worth sharing.

First, the speakers suggested that when an employee requests an accommodation or a leave and the employer asks the employee to supply medical documentation or a certification, the employer should put a deadline on the time for return and should indicate that if it’s not returned by then, the request will be considered withdrawn.

Why do this? Well, the period after a request has been made but before the employee has submitted documentation is a precarious one for the employer — a purgatory or sorts.  By putting a deadline and a consequence, the employer can then take action and rely (at least in part) on the employee’s failure to respond.

Similarly, when an employee has given a return to work date, the speakers suggested that employer accept the date but indicate that if the employee does not return on such date, the employee will be considered to have resigned from employment. Again, this type of language can then serve as a trigger to a step without being in purgatory.

Of course, the best laid plans can be circumvented and employers shouldn’t look away from other legal obligations or other reasons why an employee may not have responded (for example, the employee is in the hospital).  But these suggestions are worthy ones to add to the mix.