Human Resources News & Insights

ADA claim: Employer to pay $90K for failing to transfer disabled employee

Here’s a reminder that the feds want to see all employers explore job reassignment as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The United States of America just sued the City of Philadelphia, claiming the city discriminated against sanitation worker David Moore on the basis of his disability in violation of the ADA.

Moore worked for the Streets Department of Philadelphia when he suffered a heart attack, which left him with severe cardiac conditions and a permanent 20-pound lifting restriction. The lifting restriction rendered him unable to perform his job duties.

While on medical leave, Moore requested to be reassigned to open positions within the Streets Department or placed on light duty, according to the lawsuit. The city extended Moore’s leave, but eventually informed him that it was unable to accommodate his restrictions and terminated him.

So Moore filed a charge of disability discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which referred the charge to the U.S. Department of Justice after attempts by the EEOC to reach a conciliation agreement with the city failed.

The U.S. then filed the lawsuit against the city.

Philadelphia has since entered into an agreement with the U.S. to end the litigation.

The city agreed to:

  • pay Moore $90,000, which includes $42,500 as back pay, $2,500 as accumulated interest on the back pay and $45,000 as compensatory damages
  • reinstate Moore as an employee with retroactive seniority, and
  • revise its policies and procedures to explicitly state that employees who can no longer perform the essential functions of their position due to a disability will be reassigned to a vacant position if they are qualified for it.

The consent decree also reminded employers of the reassignment instructions in the EEOC’s enforcement guidance covering the ADA. Specifically, the decree pointed out that going forward the city must comply with these provisions:

  • An employer must reassign an employee who, because of a disability, can no longer perform the essential functions of his/her current position, with or without reasonable accommodation, to a vacant position that is equivalent in terms of pay, status, or other relevant factors (e.g., benefits, geographical location) if the employee is qualified for the position.
  • If there is no vacant equivalent position, the employer must reassign the employee to a vacant lower-level position for which the individual is qualified.
  • Assuming there is more than one vacancy for which the employee is qualified, the employer must place the individual in the position that comes closest to the employee’s current position in terms of pay, status, etc. If it is unclear which position comes closest, the employer should consult with the employee about his/her preference before determining the position to which the employee will be reassigned.

Cite: U.S. v. City of Philadelphia

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