The Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, when doing so will permit that employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Examples of reasonable accommodations include reassigning non-essential job functions to other employees, a transfer to another open position for which the employee is qualified, and temporary light-duty assignments.
But what about permanent light duty?
Last April, I blogged here about an appellate decision in which the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the ADA does not require an employer to create permanent light-duty position to accommodate an employee with a disability.
Last week, in another ADA failure-to-accommodate case, another appellate court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said, true dat:
Although Meade states that BellSouth properly accommodated him when it placed him in the temporary light-duty position in 2011, he suggests that BellSouth should have allowed him to remain in that position when his restrictions were found to be permanent in 2012. But the temporary position “was not part of a formal position within BellSouth.” BellSouth’s obligation to transfer Meade to a vacant position for which he was qualified did not require it “to create new jobs,” and we have applied this rule to hold that an employer need not create a permanent light-duty position…
- While you certainly can create a permanent light-duty position, you don’t have to.
- Make sure that your light-duty policy underscores that the position is temporary.
- While light-duty can be a good reasonable accommodation option, don’t limit yourself. As part of exploring reasonable accommodations with your employees who seek them, discuss other possible reasonable accommodations.
Image Credit: By Infrogmation – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=507116