Employer May Eliminate Light Duty Job

By Beth Ann Lennon

In Dunderdale v. United Airlines, the employee suffered from a back injury that prevented him from performing any heavy lifting. The employer assigned him to a light duty position – sitting at a computer scanning bags as they went by. Several years later, in response to employees’ requests, the employer included the position in the seniority bidding system under the applicable collective bargaining agreement. The disabled employee lost the light duty position through bidding based on seniority. Is that an ADA violation?

The court in this case held that an employer is not required to maintain positions it used in the past to provide reasonable accommodations. The employer may eliminate the job, for legitimate business reasons. Here, the employer legitimately included the position in its seniority bidding system, a system it had consistently and reliably applied under the CBA. The employer’s past practice of reserving the position for injured workers did not require them to continue doing so in perpetuity.