Employers Need Not Accommodate Unqualified Employees

By: Sam G. Sherman, Esq. A federal district court in Johnson v. Board of Trustees of the Boundary County School District No. 101, recently clarified the circumstances under which an employer must accommodate a disabled employee or job applicant. The Court ultimately found that the employer need not accommodate an employee in obtaining the qualifications necessary to perform the job. Federal law prohibits an employer from discriminating against disabled employees. To prevail in a claim for disability discrimination, an employee must establish that they are a “qualified individual with a disability.” Federal Courts traditionally apply a two-part test to determine whether an employee is a “qualified individual.” First, the employee must establish that they satisfy the “requisite skills, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position” they hold or desire. If they do, then they must establish whether, with or without accommodation, they can perform the essential functions of the position. The issue in Johnson was whether the employer must provide the employee an accommodation to satisfy the first test–whether the employee has the requisite “skill, experience, education or other requirements” of the job. The Court found that the employer is under no such obligation. It is only after the employee establishes that they possess the requisite qualifications of the job that the employer must provide reasonable accommodation so that the employee can actually perform the job. The example given in Johnson involved an applicant for a job as an attorney. A visually impaired applicant lacking a law degree or bar certification is not entitled to have the employer assist him or her in obtaining that degree or certification. However, if the employee has the requisite degree and certification, but merely requires a larger monitor to perform the job, the employer has the obligation to provide the larger monitor if it is reasonable under the circumstances.

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