Reasonable Accommodations Do Not Involve Violating a Collective Bargaining Agreement.


A recent case reminds employers that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they are not required to grant a reasonable accommodation that would violate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

In Brigham v. Frontier Airlines, Inc., the collective bargaining agreement established a bidding system to create schedules for the flight attendants. A flight attendant who was a recovering alcoholic wanted to avoid overnight layovers (“because they tempted her to drink”) and asked her employer to excuse her from the bidding system and allow her to choose her flights without the system’s limitations. She sued for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected her claim. Citing to the Supreme Court’s decision in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, the Tenth Circuit asserted that “the duty to accommodate doesn’t require an employer to take steps inconsistent with a collective bargaining agreement.” In fact, the flight attendant’s “requested accommodation would have disrupted the legitimate expectations of other employees relying on the collective bargaining agreement.”

So a request for an accommodation that results in a violation of a collective bargaining agreement will not be considered reasonable, and the ADA permits employers to reject such requests.