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Leokadia Bryk, a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital Inc. in Tampa, Florida, sought a reasonable accommodation in the form of a job reassignment because she needed a cane, which posed a safety hazard in her job in a psychiatric ward, according to the Dec. 7 ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in EEOC v. St. Joseph’s Hospital Inc.
She was given the opportunity to apply for other jobs at the hospital but had to compete for them. The hospital terminated her employment in November 2011 when she failed to obtain another hospital position, and the EEOC filed suit on her behalf.
The agency argued the hospital had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring her to compete with other applicants.
A jury held that while the hospital had failed to provide a reasonable accommodation, it had made good-faith efforts to identify and make a reasonable accommodation for Ms. Bryk.
The case was appealed, and a threejudge panel of the 11th Circuit ruled the ADA does not require reassignment without competition.
“Passing over the best-qualified job applicants in favor of less-qualified ones is not a reasonable way to promote efficiency or good performance,” said the ruling.
“Undermining a hospital’s bestqualified hiring or transfer policy imposes substantial costs on the hospital and potentially on patients,” it said.
The ruling creates a conflict with other appellate court rulings, most recently the 2012 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in EEOC v. United Airlines Inc., which concluded the ADA requires employers to appoint disabled employees to vacant positions if this would not create undue hardship.
The issue of whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to offer disabled employees reassignment to another job if they can no longer do their current job, without having to compete with possibly more qualified workers, is likely to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court following a recent appeals court ruling, experts say.