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American Airlines Pays $9.8 Million to Settle Disability Suit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class action lawsuit against American Airlines, asserting that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The parties have entered into a consent decree that will require American to modify its practices. 

American had a 100% return to work policy that required employees on leave to show that they could return to work without any restrictions before they would be permitted to return. The company’s policy did not allow employees to perform their jobs with reasonable accommodation, instead requiring the employees to find other jobs, apply for those jobs and/or compete for other jobs. The option of non-competitive transfer or reassignment was allegedly not offered as a choice. The ADA requires employers to accommodate employees who can perform the essential functions of their positions with or without accommodation. 

In addition to the $9.8 million settlement, American must also adopt a new policy that will assist disabled employees with the reassignment process to determine reasonable accommodation. The airline must also distinguish between essential and marginal job functions in determining reasonable accommodation. Moreover, American Airlines must eliminate it policies that preclude employees from returning to work solely because they have medical restrictions. An ADA coordinator will be designated by the company to oversee ADA training and will evaluate policies and practice to ensure that the employees are appropriately protected. American Airlines did not admit liability.