A former mechanic for United Airlines had a major victory recently, when a court of appeals revived his claim against his former employer for disability discrimination. The original issue arose when a brain tumor left the man unable to continue his work as a mechanic for the airline, a job he had held for over a decade. While the airline's policy states that they will give disabled employees preferential treatment over similarly qualified nondisabled employees, the policy does not provide for automatic placement in a new position.
The mechanic said that he was rejected for new jobs within the company after his brain tumor and that the airline put him on involuntary leave. He brought the lawsuit with the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009.
The case was reviewed by a three judge panel for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that employers place disabled workers in new jobs when there is a vacancy, as long as it doesn't present an undue hardship on the company.
The case is likely to have a big impact not only on employees for the world's largest air carrier, but also for disabled workers around the country who will now be protected by the appeals court decision. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals joined with two other courts that have already adopted this interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
More information about employee's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act can be found on our Pittsburgh employment law site.
Source: Reuters, "EEOC lawsuit vs United Air on disabled workers revived," Jonathan Stempel, Sept. 7, 2012.