Collective Bargaining Agreements and the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Problematic Limitation on "Reasonable Accommodation" for the Union Employee
Brian P. Kavanaugh   |   1999 U. Ill. L. Rev.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled workers in their employment practices. The ADA requires employers to "reasonably accommodate" their disabled employees. One type of reasonable accommodation consists of reassignment of the disabled employee to a different vacant position. However, in a unionized workplace, reassignment of the disabled employee could violate the seniority provisions of a collective bargaining agreement between the union and the employer. A majority of courts considering the conflict between the ADA and collective bargaining agreements have established a per se rule that an employer does not have to reassign disabled workers in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. This note argues that the per se rule adopted by a majority of courts undermines the purpose, background, and legislative history of the ADA. The per se rule ensures that more disabled people will remain unemployed, due to the significant number of employees who work under collective bargaining agreements. This note recommends that Congress clearly establish that collective bargaining agreements are not in and of themselves determinative in the reasonable accommodation process.