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ADA doesn’t require commute-friendly transfer

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employers have enough to worry about. How employees get to and from work is up to them—even if they’re disabled. It’s not your responsibility.

Disabled employees may ask for a transfer to a job closer to home to ease a difficult commute, but the ADA doesn’t obligate employers to help.

Recent case: Deidra worked for the U.S. Postal Service in San Fran­cisco. She claimed to suffer from back and neck problems. After she moved farther inland from the San Francisco area, she asked for a transfer as a reasonable accommodation. She wanted to work closer to home and have a shorter, less difficult commute.

Her supervisor told her that she was free to request a regular transfer, but refused to reassign her as a reasonable accommodation for her spine problems. Deidra rejected the suggestion because if she requested the transfer, she’d lose seniority. If she was merely reassigned, she would retain seniority.

When the post office declined Deidra’s preferred accommodation, she stopped coming to work, allegedly because of a job-related injury. After a year, she was terminated in accordance with post office policy.

That’s when she sued, alleging refusal to accommodate.

The court tossed out the claim, reasoning that employers don’t have to transfer employees whose commutes are made more difficult because of disability. The commute is the employee’s problem, not the employer’s. (Lintz v. Potter, No. 2:09-CV-01907, ED CA, 2012)

Final note: There is one caveat on commuting and disabled em­­ployees: If you offer commuting programs like ride sharing or a shuttle van service, you must make sure disabled employees can also access those benefits. It’s like training; you must allow all employees to take advantage of a benefit and make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers to participate fully.

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