On June 3, 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of disabled employees of United Airlines against United Airlines, under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a) and (b)(5)(A). The plaintiff asked the court for injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and its costs in bringing the case. Specifically the plaintiff claimed that the defendant unlawful discriminated against its employees with disabilities by requiring those seeking to transfer to compete for vacant positions that they where qualified for and needed to transfer into to accommodate their respective disabilities. The result was that employees with disabilities where denied equal employment opportunities in a way that the plaintiff claimed was willful or reckless.
On December 3, 2009 the District Court for the Northern District of California (Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton) granted a defendant's motion to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Hamilton decided that the Northern District of Illinois was a superior venue as it was the location of defendant's headquarters and thus where most of the relevant evidence and witnesses where to be found thereby reducing the defendant's expenses during the trial.
On March 10, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected plaintiff's appeal for a writ of mandamus to stop Judge Hamilton from transferring the case.
On October 26, 2010, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint which reflected the change of venue to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and provided slightly more detail about defendant's allegedly discriminatory policy.
On February 3, 2011, the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Judge Harry D. Leinenweber) granted defendant's motion to dismiss. In proceedings that day (but with no written opinion) Judge Leinenweber explained that he was dismissing the case to follow the control Seventh Circuit precedent of EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling, Inc.
, (2000) 227 F.3d 1024, EE-IL-0113
. The plaintiff appealed the judgment.
On March 7, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court's ruling finding that it was bound by Seventh Circuit precedent to dismiss the case under Humiston-Keeling, Inc.
. However, the court noted the possibility of review by the entire Seventh Circuit to consider reversing Humiston-Keeling
. EEOC v. United Airlines
673 F.3d 543 (7th Cir., 2011).
On September 7, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in an in the panel decision (a procedure where a new written opinion is circulated among all the judges of the Seventh Circuit and they vote on the opinion without rehearing it en banc), overruled its previous Humiston-Keeling
decision due to the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Barnett
, 535 U.S. 391 (2002). The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court ordering that the court determine (1) if mandatory reassignment is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and (2) if mandatory is a reasonable accommodation generally then the Court must determine if mandatory reassignment is reasonable in this case. EEOC v. United Airlines
693 F.3d 760 (7th Cir. 2012).
On May 30, 2013, the United States Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for review, thus leaving the 7th Circuit's decision intact. The case has been remanded to the District Court for further adjudication, but nothing more appears on the docket sheet so far (as of 04/07/2014). Brian Kempfer - 04/20/2014