Ruling Requires Jobs For Disabled 'Qualified' Workers

Companies that have even a few employees who can't, won't, or shouldn't work for medical reasons have a new quandary. The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia says employers may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act if they do not reassign disabled workers to new positions on a noncompetitive basis. The court ruled that not only must an employer actively search for another job that the disabled worker can perform, but that employers must place that disabled worker in a new position as long as he or she is minimally qualified -- even if there may be better qualified applicants seeking the job. That goes against the current practice of most employers who evaluate all job candidates. The impact: "Decisions regarding return to work and reassignment are now too risky to be placed in the hands of individual supervisors and plant managers," says Christopher G. Bell, managing partner of the Minneapolis office of Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman. "Companies need to establish a proactive integrated disability management program" or run the risk of new legal problems, particularly with regard to workers' compensation injuries.

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