By Mark H. Anderson

WASHINGTON -- In a case involving Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Supreme Court Friday said it will determine if a disabled employee, under federal disabilities law, gets preference over others for a vacant position even if they aren't the best qualified for the job.

The appeal involves Pam Huber, a Wal-Mart warehouse worker in Clarksville, Ark., who injured her right arm and hand on the job. Ms. Huber worked as an order filler, a warehouse floor job pulling products from storage shelves, and requested a transfer to an open position as a router, a desk job.

Wal-Mart gave the position to an employee with more seniority than Ms. Huber, however, and offered her a position at another company facility making significantly less money. She accepted the lesser-paying job and sued. A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of her. The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis in May 2007 reversed that holding and ruled for Wal-Mart.

Attorneys for Ms. Huber, in the high-court appeal, said Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules require employers to favor disabled employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal law on the rights of the disabled. "The Eighth Circuit not only disregarded the statutory text but also entirely ignored the EEOC's interpretation," the attorneys said, adding the ruling deepened a split on the issue in the federal appeals-court circuits.

Wal-Mart, in court documents, said Ms. Huber's transfer was handled under standard company transfer policies where "vacant positions go to the most qualified applicant" and "Huber's disability had nothing to do with this decision."

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