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Job-Sharing Not A Reasonable Accommodation

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held “job-sharing” a single full-time position is not a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Sanofi-Aventis (Aventis) hired Janet Perdue as a pharmaceutical sales representative; she spent about 50% of her time traveling to clients. Ten years or so into her employment, Perdue was diagnosed with antisynthetase, an autoimmune disease. Around the same time, she had surgery to remove a brain tumor that impacted her ability to walk and see out of one eye. After taking ten months off to recover, she returned to work with a job-share partner to cover her territory. She ultimately resumed her position full-time. Following her reassignment to a new territory, Perdue suffered some physical issues because of her disorder. As a result, her physician limited her work travel to within 20 miles and her work hours to no more than 30 per week. Perdue asked another employee to job-share her position, and she submitted their proposal to Aventis. The company proposed other accommodations in response, such as a hotel stay to break up her work and travel or a more comfortable car. Perdue declined those accommodations because they would not work, and Aventis rejected her job-share request, citing business reasons.

The circuit court focused its review on whether Perdue’s job-sharing request was a “reasonable accommodation,” an essential element of succeeding on an ADA claim. In its text, the ADA lists possible reasonable accommodations including “job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position…” Perdue argued the job-share request was comparable to “reassignment to a vacant position.” However, the court disagreed, concluding the position must already exist for it to be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Here, the court reasoned, Perdue requested managerial approval for the creation of two part-time positions to replace one full-time position. The court ruled this request was not a reasonable accommodation because the ADA does not require companies to create new positions.