Part-time work isn’t always reasonable accommodation

A court has concluded that, for some jobs, full-time attendance is an essential function. When that’s the case, an employer has no obligation to create a part-time position to accommodate an employee’s disability.

Recent case: Kent was a brakeman and conductor for the BNSF Railroad. The company listed full-time work as an essential job function. Kent was injured at work and was out for about six years for various surgeries and medical complications.

Even after he returned to work, Kent’s back frequently flared up and he used up his FMLA leave. When he was terminated for missing work, he sued, alleging he should have been provided part-time work.

The court tossed out his case, reasoning that BNSF was justified in requiring full-time work. Since Kent couldn’t do that, he was not a qualified employee. (Krist v. BNSF, DC MN, 2017)