Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Eighth Circuit Adds to Circuit Split on Reassignment

Today, in Huber v. Wal-Mart Stores, the Eighth Circuit ruled that the ADA requires that an employee with a disability be reassigned to a vacant position as an accommodation only if the employee is the most qualified applicant for that position. This decision adds to a longstanding circuit split on the question.

In my view, the Eighth Circuit got it wrong. The ADA explicitly lists reassignment to a vacant position as a possible accommodation. If the Eighth Circuit is right, however, Congress accomplished absolutely nothing by adding the language about reassignment. Under the Eighth Circuit's interpretation, the employer is required to reassign an employee only if it would have reassigned her anyway, in the absence of the ADA. But Congress clearly meant to accomplish more than that, and the Supreme Court in US Airways v. Barnett seemed to recognize the point.

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