September 20, 2010

Reasonable accommodation of employee's disability may not always trumpet collective bargaining seniority agreement

Reasonable accommodation of employee's disability may not always trumpet collective bargaining seniority agreement
Kralik v Durbin, CA3, 130 F.3d 76

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has decided that an accommodation of a disabled individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] does not take precedence over the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

The case focused on a conflict between employee seniority rights under a collective bargaining agreement and an employee's right to a reasonable accommodation under ADA that would adversely impact the seniority rights of other workers.

Karen Kralik, a highway toll collector, contended that she could not work "forced overtime" because her back condition prevented her from sitting for more than eight continuous hours. When her employer refused to exempt her from forced overtime, she contended that its action constituted a violation of the ADA. Kralik alleged that the reason her employer had refused to provide her with the accommodation was that it would require another employee with more seniority to work overtime and thereby infringe on the rights of these employees under the collective bargaining agreement then in place.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Kralik's argument. It commented that there was a well-established precedent in place when Congress passed ADA -- reasonable accommodation under the federal Rehabilitation Act "had never been held to require trumping the seniority rights of other employees."

Why did the Court conclude that the accommodation requested by Kralik -- no forced overtime -- was not a “reasonable accommodation" under the circumstances? The Court said "even minor infringements on other employees' seniority rights impose unreasonable burdens on employers who, by reason of these infringements, must face the consequences of violating the collective bargaining agreement."
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