Management's Workplace Lawyers

Maryland Federal Court Emphasizes Obligation to Reassign Disabled Employee.

March 31, 2017

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland recently reiterated the broad extent of the employer’s obligation to reassign a disabled employee as a reasonable accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act and the state antidiscrimination law.

As we have previously noted, under Maryland law, if a disabled employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his original position with or without a reasonable accommodation, an employer is required to reassign a disabled employee to any open position that the employee is qualified to perform, with or without a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC also takes this position with regard to the ADA.

In Wehner v. Best Buy Stores, the employee was unable to perform his original position, and applied for an open position. He was rejected because the hiring manager said the position required an associate’s degree. The Maryland federal court questioned whether the employer conducted an individualized assessment of the employee’s limitations and possible accommodations, as required under the state and federal disability laws, and whether the associate’s degree requirement was actually essential, given the employee’s many years of experience.

This case emphasizes the need for Maryland employers to review open positions to determine what may be available for a disabled employee who can no longer perform the essential functions of his original position, and to ensure that in that review of open positions, the qualifications for the position, if they would eliminate the employee from consideration for the position, are truly essential to the position.