Seventh Circuit: Reassignment to Vacant Position Is Reasonable Accommodation
In a case that overturned precedent, the Seventh Circuit recently held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may require employers to reassign employees who cannot be accommodated in their current position to vacant positions for which they are qualified, as long as doing so would be reasonable and not an undue hardship.
The case hinged on the meaning of “reassignment.” Although the ADA includes “reassignment to a vacant position” as a possible reasonable accommodation, a prior Seventh Circuit case held that the ADA did not require employers to appoint disabled workers to vacant positions.
The dispute focused on a United Airlines policy. Under the policy, United did not automatically place disabled employees who could not be accommodated in their present jobs into vacant positions for which they were qualified. Instead, the policy requied disabled employees to compete with other applicants for the positions, although they were given some advantages in the competitive process.
The EEOC sued, claiming the United policy violated the ADA. The district court granted United’s motion to dismiss, noting that precedent held that a competitive transfer process does not violate the ADA. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit overturned the precedent, in light of a subsequent Supreme Court decision, and instructed the district court to “first consider if mandatory reassignment is ordinarily, in the run of cases, a reasonable accommodation.” If it is, “the district must then determine…if there are fact-specific considerations…that would create an undue hardship and render mandatory reassignment unreasonable.”Categories: Workplace Compliance