United Settles Disability OT Suit

March 18, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - United Airlines has agreed to pay $850,000 to a group of disabled employees as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit alleging that its overtime policy ran afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A news release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said the airline has agreed to not enforce the controversial policy as part of the agreement ending the suit filed in federal court in California.

The suit arose from a charge filed by Samuel Chetcuti, a storekeeper working for United at the San Francisco International Airport over United’s policy of denying the opportunity to work overtime to anyone placed on light or limited duty. The EEOC said the policy had greater repercussions for employees with disabilities, since these workers were more likely to be assigned to light duty.

For example, Chetcuti, who has epilepsy, was under medical restrictions that prevented him from operating heavy machinery and working at heights, but did not restrict the number of hours a week he could work. Chetcuti was given light duty for his regular work schedule, and as a result, United had barred him from an overtime schedule despite the fact that he was medically cleared to work overtime, the EEOC said.

“Disability does not mean inability,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado, in the announcement. “The ADA encourages us all to focus on opening doors to all a worker can do and discourages the closing of doors through restrictive stereotypes about disabilities, such as what you may think that person cannot do.”