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.
The SCOTUSBlog, as usual, has the particulars including the opinion below, the petition for certiorari and the brief in opposition. Expect more analysis to come.
UPDATE: Oral argument is likely to be held in March 2007, with a decision by the end of the term in June 2007.