Ask the Accommodation Experts: Job Reassignment Strategies

DMEC Staff@Work

Job Reassignment Strategies

Ask the Accommodation ExpertsBy Jenny Haykin, MA

Integrated Leaves & Accommodations
Puget Sound Energy

By Tom Sproger, MS

Ergonomics Consultant
Solutions Northwest Inc.

In this new column series, Jenny Haykin, MA, CRC, and Tom Sproger, MS, CEAS-II, will be tackling your toughest accommodations questions.

Jenny Haykin is the Integrated Leaves & Accommodations Program Manager at Puget Sound Energy in Bellevue, WA (near Seattle). She is well-known to @Work readers as a frequent presenter at the DMEC Annual Conference and as an active member of the DMEC Washington (Greater Seattle) chapter. Haykin has enjoyed a long professional collaboration with Tom Sproger, an Ergonomics Consultant with Solutions Northwest, Inc. Sproger’s 30+ years in rehabilitation has included work in every West Coast state, with a home base in the greater Seattle area. He has extensive experience in most aspects of rehabilitation, including testing and assessment, job analysis, job modification, transitional return to work (RTW), and retraining and placement into new careers.

We invite you to send questions about your accommodation cases to editor@dmec.org. You can also respond to periodic “Ask the Accommodation Experts” posts through DMEC’s social media channels. Sharing your challenging cases will help both your organization and your fellow professionals, and any personally identifiable information will be redacted.

First up, Jenny and Tom tackle job reassignment strategies.


Dear Jenny and Tom,

One of our employees became permanently disabled while working in the job he has held at our organization for some time. He is eligible for reassignment into a vacant position. A vacancy is anticipated shortly for a union-represented job that he has the qualifications and capacities to perform. However, he does not have enough seniority to bid into the job. What do you recommend?

Uncertain in Michigan

Dear Uncertain in Michigan,

Disregarding seniority provisions in collective bargaining agreements to provide an accommodation is not a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the ADA Amendments Act and can be seen as an undue hardship on the employer. A more senior employee may be eligible for the job, may want it, and may have rights to it under the collective bargaining agreement.

When situations like this arise, we tell employers to consult with their internal labor relations contact and review the collective bargaining agreement to look for special job placement provisions, giving disabled employees priority placement into a vacant position. Also, check for “bumping rights,” which means a position does not have to be vacant for the employee to move into if it’s occupied by a less senior employee. Bumping rights can open the door to additional reassignment opportunities beyond only vacant jobs.

If no such provisions exist, the employer can inform the union of the reassignment candidate’s eligibility for the current opening and ask about any suitable positions that may open due to the current vacancy (the employee who takes the job will leave a vacancy, and if another employee fills that vacancy, that will create another vacancy, and so on). If the union objects to placing the employee due to seniority provisions, the request shows that the employer made a good faith effort to place the employee. If the employee has questions about the union’s decision, refer them to their union representative.

Jenny and Tom