Employer Discriminates Against Disabled Employee

This case involves an employee who worked in the light assembly department of a company testing small air valve components of air brakes for large vehicles. The employee regularly came into contact with various chemical, solvents, and irritants, and he eventually developed muscular injuries and chronic dermatitis on his hands. The employee’s condition became so severe that his physician restricted his work activities and recommended that he avoid exposure to potential contact irritants. On several occasions, the employee’s physician ordered him not to work at all for limited periods of time. The employee’s physician later certified that he was “permanently disabled” and that he was unfit to work in the light assembly department due to his chronic dermatitis. The company where the employee worked was unable to find him an assignment within the light assembly department that he could perform because of his physical limitations. Eventually, the company fired him because of its inability to accommodate his chronic skin sensitivity in the light assembly department. There were numerous job openings at the company that were not made available to the employee before he was fired. The employee sued the company alleging that it failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 when it fired him.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can a qualified employee sue a company that refuses to reassign them to a vacant position if the employee becomes disabled and cannot perform their job?

Expert Witness Response

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee because of a disability at all stages of employment. Under the ADA, a disabled employee is entitled to “reasonable accommodation” in the form of reassignment to a vacant position at a company. Under the ADA, an employer has a statutory duty to reassign a disabled employee because this constitutes a form of “reasonable accommodation.” Reassignment of a disabled employee is mandated under the ADA when (1) a vacant position is available; (2) the employee is qualified; and (3) the reassignment is reasonable and does not pose an undue hardship to the employer. Reasonable accommodation is mandated under the ADA because it prevents a disabled employee from being out of work and prevents an employer from losing a valuable worker. Since the employee in this case became disabled and could no longer perform the essential functions of his job, the company was probably mandated, under the ADA, to transfer him to another vacant job that he was qualified to do. The employee could probably bring a suit against the employer for violating the ADA by firing him since the company had vacant positions that he was qualified and able to do and this type of reasonable accommodation was available at the company but was not provided to him in this case.


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