The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed its own precedent. It has held that the Americans with Disabilities Act may require reassignment accommodation involving transfer into a position, rather than just allowing the employee with a disability to apply for the position. It is a rare case where reassignment would be the appropriate accommodation. But, in the right circumstances, the Seventh Circuit has now found that reassignment is possible. See EEOC v. United Airlines, Inc., No. 10-CV-01699, 2012 WL 3871503 (7th Cir. 9/7/2012). See decision here. The court finds that where a position is vacant, then reassignment is possible.
The court reviewed the pivotal decision in U.S. Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a seniority system will not necessarily trump the ADA’s requirement for an accommodation. The Barnett decision was issued after the Seventh Circuit’s prior decision. So, the EEOC v. United Airlines, Inc. court found that Barnett controlled.
Only the 8th circuit still holds that reassignment can never constitute a possible accommodation under the ADA. But, the 8th Circuit relied on the old 7th Circuit decision, now overruled. Indeed, the EEOC v. United Airlines, Inc. court criticized the 8th Circuit for not considering the Barnett decision.