BUSINESS LAW: Trainees under the ADA

2013-01-12T05:45:00Z BUSINESS LAW: Trainees under the ADAJames L. Jorgensen Times Business Columnist nwitimes.com
January 12, 2013 5:45 am  • 

Pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), in order to be protected, the employee must be qualified to perform the duties of her job.

A recent case addressed how a trainee's claim is considered. Must the employee be qualified for the ultimate position she is seeking, or must she merely be qualified to be a trainee for that position?

Consider these facts: A woman missing her left hand was a trainee for a bus driver position. The state had issued her a waiver from the requirements of being a driver. However, it was apparent her trainer didn't believe she could do the job.

The trainer gave the trainee poor progress reports, criticizing her driving skills. He complained the trainee was high maintenance, and stated parents would be unhappy when they learned the trainee would be operating their children's bus.

In order to be qualified as a bus driver, the trainee had to obtain her commercial driver's license. The trainer frustrated the trainee's attempts to schedule the test, and she never received the CDL.

The employer terminated the trainee, and she filed suit under the ADA. The employer defended by arguing the employee wasn't qualified for the position of bus driver because she lacked the CDL.

The court disagreed. The issue was not whether the employee was qualified to be a bus driver. Rather, it was whether she was qualified to be a trainee, for which the CDL was not required.

The case teaches employers an important lesson. In order to assert an ADA claim, a job trainee need only establish that she is qualified for the trainee position, and not for the ultimate job for which she was being trained.

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