Enforcement and Inspection

Multimillion Dollar Settlement in Airline Return-to-Work Case

American Airlines and Envoy Air will pay $9.8 million in stock, currently valued at over $14 million, and provide other relief to settle a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which brought the suit, claims the airlines unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees. Envoy Air is described as the largest regional carrier for American Airlines.

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According to the EEOC, the carriers illegally required their employees to be completely free of restrictions before returning to work following a medical leave. Under this policy, any restrictions would permit the airlines to refuse a return to work. The policy also failed to address the requirement to identify reasonable accommodations that would allow employees to return to work with restrictions.

EEOC says these actions violate provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If employees with disabilities are not able to perform their current job, even with reasonable accommodation, employers are obligated to look for another position for them.

“This matter highlights the critical role of the Americans with Disabilities Act in getting people back to work as quickly as possible,” said EEOC acting chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “The parties deserve credit for working diligently to bring this matter to resolution.”

EEOC filed suit in an Arizona district court after failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement. In addition to the nearly $10 million in stock, the two-year decree includes injunctions against future decimation or retaliation based on disability and requires the airlines to adopt policies that ensure reasonable accommodations. Also, American and Envoy will provide mandatory periodic training on the ADA to employees.