7th Circuit Says Disabled Not Automatically Entitled to Vacant Jobs

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, has upheld a 2000 decision in which it ruled that the disabled are not automatically entitled to vacant job openings as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The case under review involved a United Airlines' policy (called "Reasonable Accommodation Guidelines") affirming that a transfer is viable for a disabled person who can no longer perform the essential functions or his or her current position, but that access to vacant jobs will be on a competitive basis. In other words, though the disabled will be given priority interview status for open positions, regardless of their qualifications, United Airlines reserves the right to choose the most qualified individual.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) argued that the ADA mandates transfers to open positions as a reasonable accommodation, but the court held that a competitive transfer policy does not violate the disabilities law. The operable ADA language allowing such competition, ruled the court, is the phrase "undue hardship," which the employer might face if forced to accept a disabled person into a vacant position that he or she could not readily perform.

The 7th Circuit Court, however, agreed that the EEOC had a persuasive case and recommended an en banc (full court instead of a three-member panel) review of the decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Court may take up the issue due to conflicting circuit court opinions.

NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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