Lexology (03/19/12) Christopher Ward
In the case EEOC v. United Airlines Inc., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against the airline for new reasonable accommodation guidelines stating that disabled workers no longer able to perform the essential functions of their jobs could be accommodated through a job transfer, but they could not be guaranteed the vacant position if there are superior candidates seeking that position. The EEOC argued that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, disabled workers who are minimally qualified for the vacant position must be given priority.
The Seventh Circuit granted the employer’s motion to dismiss and later affirmed its previous decision when the EEOC appealed, noting that it addressed the same issue in a 2000 ruling. However, the court said it could not overturn its previous ruling unless the governing statutory language had changed or a U.S. Supreme Court decision directly undermined its previous decision. Thus, observers believe employers should act with caution when transferring disabled employees.