June 29, 2000
The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-1501
Dear Senator Grassley:
This is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, Ms. xxxx x. xxxxxxx, who was placed on disability retirement from her position as a corrections officer by the State of Iowa in April 1998. Ms. xxxxxxx wishes to return to her position and questions the legality of the retirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (ADA).
The Civil Rights Division's Disability Rights Section shares with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the responsibility for enforcing title I of the ADA, which prohibits disability-based discrimination in employment. EEOC investigates most complaints under title I. Only the Section, however, may initiate litigation against state and local government employers. The Section also enforces section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibigts disability discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance, with respect to entities such as state corrections systems that receive funds from the Department of Justice. Finally, the Section has authority to investigate certain employment discrimination complaints from state and local government employees under title II of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in state and local government programs, services, and activities, including employment. Regulations issued to coordinate complaint processing between EEOC and other federal agencies provide that EEOC's title I regulations and appendix, and the case law arising under those regulations, govern the resolution of employment discrimination complaints processed elsewhere under section 504. See 28 C.F.R.ï½§ 37.12.
The EEOC regulations provide that employers must reasonably accommodate qualified individuals with disabilities, upon notice of need, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. Qualified individuals are those who are capable of performing the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation. It appears that Ms. xxxxxxx' employer determined that, because of her disability, she was not qualified to perform as a corrections officer with or without accommodation. It therefore transferred her to a vacant position, that of accountant, a type of accommodation prescribed by the ADA and the EEOC regulations. 42 U.S.C. ï½§12111(9)(B)(1994); 29 C.F.R. ï½§ 1630.2(o)(2)(ii)(1997).
In light of these legal principles, it is unclear whether Ms. xxxxxxx has a viable ADA claim. That would depend upon whether a type of reasonable accommodation existed that would enable her to perform the essential functions of the corrections officer position. Finally, the time frame for filing a complaint with EEOC is 180-300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination, depending upon whether there is a state or local agency authorized to grant relief from the practice at issue. The time frame for filing a title II complaint with the Disability Rights Section is 180 days after the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended for good cause shown.
I hope this information will assist you in responding to your constituent. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
Bill Lann Lee
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division