Second Circuit: Job Applicants Must be Qualified for the Job to Receive Disability Accommodations


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August 12, 2022



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In Williams v. MTA Bus Company, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stated that employers only have to provide accommodations to job applicants with disabilities if the applicant is otherwise qualified for the job. In this case, a deaf job applicant requested an American Sign Language interpreter for a knowledge-based preemployment exam for a stockworker position. The MTA Bus Company declined since the applicant did not have the proper experience and training for the job.  


Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New York state law, employers must provide accommodations to applicants with disabilities if they are otherwise qualified for the position. Additionally, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal employment, employment by federal contractors, programs conducted by federal agencies, or programs receiving federal financial assistance. Section 504 also states that only an “otherwise qualified individual” can bring forward a discrimination claim. By agreeing with the lower court to dismiss the applicant’s discrimination claim, the Second Circuit provided a clear answer to employers that failure to accommodate a disability is not discrimination when the applicant is not qualified for the position. 


Action Items 

  1. Review procedures regarding applicant requests for disability accommodations. 
  2. Have appropriate personnel trained on granting and rejecting requests for accommodations from job applicants. 
  3. Consult with legal counsel prior to rejecting a request for accommodation. 
  4. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance. 


Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2022 ManagEase