Qualifications Do Count in the Accommodation Process
Cornell University, Employment and Diability Institute, August 10, 2015

Two recent EEOC cases highlight the importance of employee qualification when negotiating accommodations under Title I of the ADA. As these cases prove, the decision to grant more complex accommodations such as reassignment or telecommuting requires that both the employer and the employee work together to find an accommodation that is reasonable, effective, and congruent with the skills and qualifications of the employee.

In EEOC v. United Airlines, 693 F.3d 760 (7th Cir. 2012), the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th circuit ruled that an employee who is qualified does not have to compete for reassignment to a vacant position, in the event that it is requested as a reasonable accommodation. The ruling holds that it is reasonable to reassign employees with disabilities to a position for which they are qualified, even if they are not the most qualified applicant.

However, a recent ruling on EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., Case No. 12-2484, 2015 WL 1600305 (6th Cir. Apr. 10, 2015) held that the employer was permitted to deny an employee the opportunity to telecommute, when it was deemed that the employee’s performance was consistently poor and that she could not perform the essential functions of the position by telecommuting.

Reasonable accommodations are provided on a case by case basis, and often require critical thinking about very specific circumstances. The issue of the employees’ qualifications are an important factor in those negotiations. This is true of employees with and without disabilities who request accommodations at work, as 95% of accommodation requests come from employees without disabilities.

The following resources can assist employers to make effective decisions about complex reasonable accommodations:

Employment & the ADA
Making Work Happen Online Toolkits

For questions about disability employment practices and policies or to learn more about customized training and consultation contact us:

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