Americans with Disabilities Act Requires Employers to Transfer Employees Who are Losing their Current Positions Due to Disability to a Vacant Position for which they are Qualified

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires that employers consider possible reasonable accommodations that would permit disabled employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs. According to to the ADA, a reasonable accommodation could include a reassignment to a vacant position. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Airlines, Inc. (No. 11-1774), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit considered United Airlines’ guidelines for transferring employees in light of the ADA’s requirements. United Airlines’ guidelines specified that its employee transfer process was competitive, so that an employee in need of accommodation would not be automatically assigned to a vacant position, but would be given preference over similarly situated applicants. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) challenged the policy under the ADA. Although the district court ruled in United Airlines’ favor, the Seventh Circuit reversed and held that the ADA does, in fact, mandate that an employer reassign employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, provided that the such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and not present an undue hardship to that employer.

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