EEOC, Northwest Airlines Settle Suit

January 4, 2005

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Minneapolis-based Northwest Airlines Inc. (Northwest) announced the settlement of a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

EEOC’s lawsuit, filed on April 25, 2001, alleged that Northwest excluded applicants for airport ramp equipment service employee and cleaner positions if they had epilepsy or insulin-dependent diabetes. Northwest specifically denies the allegations and said it believes that its hiring processes are and were proper, but is voluntarily entering into the settlement to avoid protracted litigation.

A key element of the agreement is that Northwest will offer an individualized assessment of the current ability of an airport ramp position applicant with insulin-dependent diabetes or a seizure disorder to safely perform, with or without reasonable accommodation, the job’s essential functions. Northwest also will provide a settlement fund of $510,000 for distribution among 28 individuals for whom the EEOC was seeking relief.

Northwest stated that it has a longstanding practice of providing an individualized assessment for applicants applying for airport ramp positions. Northwest added it is settling this case to expeditiously resolve the matter and avoid protracted litigation, but also because the procedures in the agreement reaffirm and are consistent with its commitment to equal employment opportunity.

Chester Bailey, District director of the Milwaukee District Office, said “This lawsuit was an important reminder to employers that the ADA requires that they give individualized assessments to their employees with disabilities to determine whether they could perform their jobs with or without reasonable accommodation. We are pleased to have been able to work with Northwest Airlines to reach settlement terms that assure that applicants are getting the individualized attention that they deserve.”

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