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What is a Reasonable Accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act? The City of Philadelphia’s Costly Reminder to Consider Job Transfers as a Reasonable Accommodation.

On July 9, 2012, David Moore filed a Charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) (Charge No. 530-2012-02470) alleging that the City of Philadelphia failed to reassign him to a new job as a reasonable accommodation when a heart condition left him unable to perform his current job. Instead, the City of Philadelphia terminated his employment.

By way of background, Mr. Moore was a sanitation worker for the Streets Department of the City of Philadelphia. In April of 2011, Mr. Moore suffered a heart attack which left him with permanent, severe cardiac conditions. Mr. Moore’s doctor imposed a 20-pound lifting restriction, leaving Mr. Moore unable to fulfill the duties of his position. As a result of the lifting restriction, Mr. Moore had requested several times to be reassigned to one of the Streets Department’s open positions or to be put on light duty. At one point, Mr. Moore informed the Streets Department that he was “willing to accept whatever work assignment that is available.”

The Streets Department, however, kept extending Mr. Moore’s medical leave and told him to inform the Streets Department when he could return to work in his previous position (full duty, without restrictions). During the time Mr. Moore was out on leave, there were numerous open positions, according to the Complaint. On March 15, 2012, Mr. Moore’s doctor informed the City of Philadelphia that the 20-pound lifting restriction would be permanent. Two months later, the City of Philadelphia terminated Mr. Moore’s employment stating, “[u]nfortunately, we are unable to provide an accommodation for your restrictions.”

The EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability were true. The EEOC referred the Charge to the United States Department of Justice after the EEOC’s attempts at conciliation failed. The United States then filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia (Case No. 2:17-CV-00514-GJP) alleging claims under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

On February 6, 2017, the City of Philadelphia and the United States entered into a Consent Decree. Mr. Moore received $90,000 ($42,500 as back pay, $2,500 as accumulated interest on the back pay, and $45,000 as compensatory damages) and an offer of reinstatement as an employee with the City of Philadelphia with retroactive seniority and other previous benefits of employment. Significantly, the City of Philadelphia agreed to revise its policies and procedures to state that employees who can no longer perform the essential functions of their position due to a disability will be reassigned to a vacant position if they are qualified for it. Additionally, the City of Philadelphia agreed to meet certain recordkeeping and reporting requirements and to provide mandatory training on all aspects of Title I of the ADA.

Mr. Moore’s case is a reminder to all employers to review their policies and procedures to determine if they are compliant with the ADA and their obligations to reasonably accommodate disabled employees. Moreover, not only should an employer review its policies and procedures, it should do its due diligence to determine if the company is appropriately implementing its policies.

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