The U.S. Supreme Court denied a writ for certiorari from United Airlines on May 28 to review one of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s most significant recent victories on behalf of people with disabilities.
In September 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that United Airlines must reassign employees, whose disability prevents them from continuing their previous job, to new positions as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The Seventh Circuit’s affirmation of our interpretation of the ADA is a tremendous victory for individuals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are pleased that the Supreme Court refused to review the decision,” said EEOC general counsel P. David Lopez in a news release. “This helps strengthen the EEOC’s ability to fully enforce the law in both our individual and systemic cases.”
Previously, the nation’s largest airline employer forced these employees to reapply and compete for vacant positions.
“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 employee,” the court wrote in its opinion.
The influential Chamber of Commerce had filed an amicus brief on behalf of United Airlines.
The case had been deemed a likely candidate for further review because the circuit have reached different opinions on whether the ADA required employers to reassign these employees. In fact, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in 2007 in a similar, but declined to issue a ruling after the parties reached a settlement.
“Many times reassignment is the reasonable accommodation of last resort and considered only when the employee cannot be accommodated in the current position,” EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said in the news release. “With the Supreme Court’s denial of United Airlines’ petition, we can now go back to court to try to prove that United’s qualified disabled employees should be provided reassignment.”