Brooklyn Law Review


This note directly addresses one of the most pertinent and core civil rights issues—employment rights of individuals with disabilities—and proposes a unique contribution to current scholarship. The problem lies in the interpretation of the Americans With Disabilities Act’s provision that suggests that reassignment “may” be a reasonable accommodation, which is defined as any accommodation required for an employee with a disability to equalize success and opportunity in the workplace. The word “may” in the provision creates confusion over whether reassignment is always reasonable. Hence, circuit courts are divided on the issue of whether mandatory reassignment is always a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Some circuit courts endorse the “best-qualified applicant” approach that proposes that disabled employees are required to compete in the application process and should not be given priority over more qualified applicants due to their disability status. However, other circuit courts and the EEOC endorse the proposition that reassignment is always mandatory, regardless of the disabled employee being the most qualified. Consequently, the split is widening, and employers are left with little guidance on how to comply with the ADA regarding employee reassignment. This note argues that the best way to appease all circuit courts and the EEOC’s guidance is through a two-prong test addressing: (1) the qualification of the applicant; and (2) a cost-benefit analysis that will outline some of the factors that the Supreme Court should consider. The Court should use this two-prong test because it will bind all the circuit courts to one interpretation and illuminate the compliance issues for employers while taking into consideration the rights owed to employees with disabilities under the ADA. Additionally, the two-prong test will preserve the goals of businesses while simultaneously safeguarding individuals with disabilities. In order for employers to comply with the ADA, there must be a unifying standard to interpret ambiguous components of the statute, specifically, whether reassignment as a reasonable accommodation is always mandatory or not.