The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused the United Airline’s request for a hearing of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sevenths Circuit’s decision in EEOC v. United Airlines, Case No. 11-1774. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s order lets stand the 7th Circuit’s decision affirming the right of qualified disabled employees to seek reassignment to vacant positions as a form of reasonable accommodation when accommodation in the original position is not possible.
“The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that United violated the ADA by requiring workers with disabilities to compete for vacant positions for which they were qualified and which they needed in order to continue working. The company’s practice frequently prevented employees with disabilities from continuing their employment with the company. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the EEOC’s disability discrimination lawsuit and found 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 the employer,'” the EEOC stated in its May 30, 2013, press release.
“The EEOC filed the original lawsuit on June 3, 2009 in the Northern District of California based on its investigation of a number of discrimination charges filed by United employees located in San Francisco and Chicago. United successfully moved for a change of venue to the Northern District of Illinois, where an earlier Seventh Circuit case, EEOC v. Humiston Keeling, 227 F.3d 1024 (7th Cir. 2000), had already held that a competitive transfer policy did not violate the ADA. In February 2011, the lower court, bound by this precedent, dismissed the EEOC’s case against United. However, in an en banc review, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the EEOC that Humiston Keeling “did not survive” an intervening Supreme Court decision, U.S. Airways v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002).” Id. The Seventh Circuit agreed with the EEOC, stating that “
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal of the United Airlines’ case shows its continuing support for its holding in U.S. Airways v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002) that includes reassignment to vacant positions within the realm of possible reasonable accommodations for disabilities.