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7th Circuit: Disabled employees entitled to reassignment

United Airline workers who lose their jobs due to disability are entitled reassignment to vacant positions for which they are qualified, the 7th Circuit has ruled in reversing judgment.

In 2003, United Airlines adopted new reasonable accommodation guidelines to address disabled workers who can no longer perform the essential functions of their current jobs. Under the new guidelines, employees are not entitled to automatic reassignment to vacant positions they can perform. Instead, such employees are merely entitled to preferential treatment in filling openings.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued, alleging that the new policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

United Airlines argued that the new policy was consistent with a decision in an earlier 7th Circuit case, EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling (227 F.3d 1024).

But the 7th Circuit here decided that Humiston-Keeling was contrary to intervening U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

“We … hold that the ADA does indeed mandate that an employer appoint employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, provided that such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and would not present an undue hardship to that employer,” the court said.

U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit. EEOC v. United Airlines, No. 11-1774.

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