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Disabled Trainee Not Required to Show Final Job Qualifications to Maintain ADA Claim

    Client Alerts
  • August 24, 2012

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disabled plaintiff must be "qualified" to maintain a discrimination claim. Qualified means that the person must be able to perform essential job functions despite the disability, including necessary background, experience and licensing. Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted ADA qualifications for the final job not to apply to a trainee for the position.

Rosebrough v. Buckeye Valley High Sch. involved a discrimination claim by a one-handed plaintiff who applied for a bus driving position. She was hired for the position as a trainee despite the fact that she had not obtained the Commercial Drivers License necessary for the actual bus driver position. After experiencing problems with her performance as a trainee, the school terminated her, citing the lack of a CDL as a motivating reason.

The Sixth Circuit drew a line between qualifications as a trainee and those required for the final job. A CDL was not required for training as a bus driver, and the school did not demonstrate that the plaintiff was not qualified for the trainee position. The Sixth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment for the school and remanded the matter for trial. 

The school did not claim that the plaintiff was unable to obtain a CDL due to her medical condition (certain medical waivers may be available). Therefore, the court did not speculate on whether an employer could deny an initial training position for which she is qualified if the applicant clearly could not meet the qualifications for the final job. This seems to be a logical assumption, but the plaintiff in this case had already been hired as a trainee, demonstrating a belief that she could potentially meet final job qualifications.