EEOC Seal

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Making an Employment Decision?

Example - Denying a Leave Request

The laws enforced by the EEOC require employers to provide reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) because of an employer's disability or religious beliefs, in certain circumstances. For example, in some instances, you may be required to provide employees with leave for medical or religious reasons.

However, you may deny requests for medical or religious leave in certain circumstances:

  • You may deny a medical leave request that would cause significant difficulty or expense, unless the employee has a right to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (enforced by the Department of Labor) or a state or local law. For example, under the laws enforced by the EEOC:
    • You may deny a medical leave request if the employee cannot indicate if or when she will be able to return to work.
      • However, you may not deny leave solely because the employee's expected return date or range of possible return dates is approximate or changes, unless the uncertainty or duration causes significant difficulty or expense for your business.
    • You may deny a medical leave request if it is extremely difficult to find a temporary replacement because of the highly specialized nature of the employee's job.
    • You may deny a medical leave request if the frequency, length or unpredictability of an employee's requested leave poses significant difficulty or expense for your business.
  • You may deny a religious leave request that would impose more than minimal costs or disruptions.

    For example:

    • You may deny a religious leave request if allowing the employee to take leave would infringe on other employees' job rights or benefits (for example, by denying them schedule preferences they are entitled to under a seniority system).
    • You may deny a religious leave request if it would require other employees to perform the employee's share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
    • You may deny a religious leave request if you would have to pay premium wages (such as overtime pay) to the substitute employee(s) on a regular basis.

If you are unable to grant a medical or religious leave request, determine whether alternative solutions are available that would be effective for both your business and the employee.

See also:

I need to deny or propose an alternative to an employee's leave request

Example - Alternatives to Granting Leave

What should I do if an applicant or employee asks for breaks, leave or other changes to a work situation because of his medical condition or his religious beliefs?

Leave Policy Tips