Continuing a pattern of narrowing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that, in most cases, employers don't have to override their seniority system to accommodate the needs of a disabled worker.
The case involved a disabled US Airways worker who sought transfer from a cargo-handling position to the mail room, jumping over others with greater seniority in the process. The company said it didn't have to accommodate his request, and the high court backed it up, saying that allowing such moves would pose an "undue hardship." (US Airways v. Barnett, No. 00-1250)
But the decision wasn't a total win for employers: The justices said disabled workers still could try to prove they have a "special circumstance" that warrants making an exception to the rule.
Bottom line: The ADA isn't meant to give disabled workers preference over others. It's meant to ensure equal access. But determining reasonable accommodation under the law still will be a case-by-case situation.
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