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Two Interesting Posts Highlight ADA Nuances

Here are two posts from employment law blogs that illustrate
some of the difficulties and contradictions of the ADA, especially when it
comes to reasonable accommodations.

In the first post, from Eric Meyer of The Employment
Handbook, the court held that under the ADA a utility man could have a viable
claim against a utility company stemming from an injury which prevented him
from performing his duties
. In the case, the worker, who was an apprentice
lineman for Xcel Energy, injured his back and couldn’t climb utility poles. He
alleges he was offered a lower paying job as a substitute electrician, and when
he accepted, was told his three years of seniority stemming from earlier
employment no longer applied. He sued for disability discrimination, and the
court held that employer had a case to develop regarding whether he had a true
disability. Meyer states that the case points out a couple of things about the
ADA. First, that it really is a low threshold to prove disability for the
purposes of receiving reasonable accommodation, and second, that even though an
employer might think that the disability prevents the employee from performing
the essential functions of the position, there are many ways in which ADA
mandates reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to keep his or her
position.

Second, the Wisconsin Employment and Labor Law
Blog highlights a recent 7th Circuit case that develops the idea of
reasonable accommodation under the ADA
. In the case, the court held that “the ADA does indeed mandate that an employer appoint
employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified,
provided that such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and would not
present an undue hardship to that employer”. The Court did note that given that
employers use a seniority system for reassignments and transfers, the ADA may
be interpreted in light of those rules. The Court also stated that a “best
hire” system of choosing the best candidate needs to give way to a reasonable
accommodation for a disabled employee. Overall, unless the company has a
seniority system, it will need to show some sort of special consideration that
would make the accommodation transfer unreasonable. Employers need to be aware
that under the ADA transfers may be necessary as a reasonable accommodation,
and that transfers may be necessary even in cases where the employee’s injury
seems to be directly linked to the job function.