Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

May 25, 2015

Transfer to previous role may have been reasonable accommodation for disability


A hospital that failed to return an employee who suffered from cognitive difficulties to his previous role may have failed to accommodate the employee’s disability as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ruled the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The employee was an “environmental technician” and he had been successful in cleaning surgical rooms for a number of years. When the hospital assigned him to cleaning patient rooms, he struggled to complete the job and asked to be reassigned back to his prior role. The hospital was unwilling to return him. They argued he was unqualified for the environmental technician position because employees were required to be able to perform all of the different roles that the position might encompass. They also said he had been confrontational with the surgical staff.

The court rejected both arguments. Although the job description for “environmental technician” was the same regardless of whether the employee was cleaning patient rooms or surgical suites, the roles were not the same. The employee had been assigned solely to one role for years prior to his reassignment, and had been successful in that role.

In addition, the employee had received a positive performance evaluation just one month after he had been talked to about the confrontations with the surgical staff. The review said he was meeting or exceeding expectations in all aspects of his job. A court will now have a trial to determine if a transfer back to the original role would have been an appropriate accommodation (Mobley v. Miami Valley Hospital, 6th Cir, Feb. 2015).

Tips: When considering an employee’s request for an accommodation under the ADA, you are not required to grant the employee’s first choice, but you should make sure that you have good, solid reasons for refusing to do so. Make sure that job descriptions accurately describe the tasks that are necessary for each job, and do not include tasks that are “nice to have” or may become necessary someday. Finally, ensure that performance evaluations accurately reflect any shortcomings as well as positive elements of performance. See our Legal Guides, “ADA: Job Reassignment” and “Performance Evaluations.”

Review our additional blogs on workplace disability law and speak with your Vigilant employment attorney for more information on how to remain ADA compliant.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.