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Bilinsky v. Am. Airlines, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

March 27, 2019, Argued; June 26, 2019, Decided

No. 18-3107

Opinion

 [*567]  Kanne, Circuit Judge. American Airlines employed Kimberly Bilinsky for more than two decades. That employment continued without issue after Bilinsky contracted multiple sclerosis ("MS") in the late 1990s. American provided a "Work from Home Arrangement" ("WFHA"), which permitted Bilinsky to do her job from her home in Chicago, even though her colleagues operated out of the company headquarters in Dallas. But after a 2013 merger, American restructured its operations and informally repurposed Bilinsky's department. The executives determined that the new duties required the in-person involvement of the employees, so the company rescinded the arrangement and demanded that Bilinsky relocate to Texas to work face-to-face. Once negotiations [**2]  collapsed, American terminated Bilinsky.

This lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") followed. 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to American, finding that Bilinsky was no longer qualified for the position in light of the changes in her responsibilities. Because Bilinsky's evidence does not counter that assertion, we affirm.

I. Background

American hired Bilinsky in 1991. She served in several positions, taking on a role in 2007 as a communications specialist in the Flight Service Department, located in Dallas at the company's headquarters. But according to Bilinsky's medical records, excessive heat aggravates her MS symptoms and causes her discomfort and reduced functioning. Under the WFHA, American permitted Bilinsky to work from Chicago, where hot weather is less of a concern. She usually traveled to Dallas one day per week to meet with colleagues and perform tasks that required a physical presence.

Bilinsky's duties included participating in conference calls, administering an internal website used to distribute information to flight attendants, publishing articles intended for consumption by flight attendants, producing e-mail communications to employees, [**3]  and preparing remarks for her boss's weekly internal video announcement. The position had no formal, written job description. Bilinsky performed successfully for several years, and there is no record of complaints or disciplinary action against her.

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928 F.3d 565 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 19101 **

KIMBERLY BILINSKY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Subsequent History: Modified and rehearing denied by, Rehearing, en banc, denied by Bilinski v. Am. Airlines, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23868 (7th Cir. Ill., Aug. 9, 2019)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 16 C 4253. Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.

Bilinsky v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149559 (N.D. Ill., Aug. 31, 2018)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

essential function, employees, accommodation, disability, merger, summary judgment, district court, attendance, job description, qualified individual, functions, reasonable accommodation, genuine, regular, work-from-home, Airlines, relocate, Flight, courts, grant summary judgment, physical presence, headquarters, regulations, eliminated, terminated, changes, remote, team

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Evidentiary Considerations, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Procedural Matters, Federal Versus State Law, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Actionable Discrimination, Business & Corporate Compliance, Disability Discrimination, Reasonable Accommodations, Employment Practices, Discharges & Failures to Hire, Scope & Definitions, Scope & Definitions, Qualified Individuals With Disabilities, Reasonable Accommodations, Undue Hardship, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Deference to Agency Statutory Interpretation, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Employee Burdens of Proof, Defenses