The U.S. Supreme Court this afternoon granted certiorari to an important question under the Americans with Disabilities Act, namely whether disabled employees must be reassigned to a vacant position for which they are qualified or merely be permitted to apply for such a position.
In Huber v. Walmart, the Eighth Circuit held for the employer in concluding that:
the ADA is not an affirmative action statute and does not require an employer to reassign a qualified disabled employee to a vacant position when such a reassignment would violate a legitimate nondiscriminatory policy of the employer to hire the most qualified candidate. … Thus, the ADA does not require Wal-Mart to turn away a superior applicant for the router position in order to give the position to Huber. To conclude otherwise is “affirmative action with a vengeance. That is giving a job to someone solely on the basis of his status as a member of a statutorily protected group.” [citation omitted]
Here, Wal-Mart did not violate its duty, under the ADA, to provide a reasonable accommodation to Huber. Wal-Mart reasonably accommodated Huber’s disability by placing Huber in a maintenance associate position. The maintenance position may not have been a perfect substitute job, or the employee’s most preferred alternative job, but an employer is not required to provide a disabled employee with an accommodation that is ideal from the employee’s perspective, only an accommodation that is reasonable.
UPDATE: Oral argument is likely to be held in March 2007, with a decision by the end of the term in June 2007.