Safety and OSHA News

Worker with no vision in one eye wins discrimination lawsuit: $245K payout

Saying that he posed a “direct threat” based on safety, a company withdrew a job offer to an oil rig worker because he didn’t have vision in one eye. Now a court has ruled in favor of the worker. 

Kevin McDowell applied for a job with Parker Drilling Co. on an Alaskan oil rig. The company withdrew its initial job offer to McDowell when it found through a medical exam that he was blind in one eye.

The company said McDowell’s blindness in one eye “posed a direct threat to Mr. McDowell and other employees working on the rig floor.”

McDowell lost sight in his left eye as a child. He said he never found his monocular vision to be a problem during his 37-year oil rig career.

McDowell and Parker tried to settle the dispute but couldn’t come to an agreement. Then the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on McDowell’s behalf. The EEOC and Parker also couldn’t negotiate a settlement. The case went to trial before a federal jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

The jury returned a verdict in McDowell’s favor. The judge ordered Parker to pay McDowell $15,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain and distress and $230,619 in back pay.

“A unanimous eight-person jury believed in Kevin McDowell and rejected Parker Drilling’s defense that he posed a ‘direct threat’ based on safety,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo. “The jury has sent a message that … employees and applicants will be fairly assessed on their ability to do a job, and not wrongfully excluded due to myths, fears or stereotypes about disabilities.”

(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Parker Drilling Co., No. 3:13-CV-00181-SLG, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska, 5/29/15)

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  1. going1234 says:

    Or they sent the message that Safety is not important?

    • Blindinoneeyebutstillsaferthan says:

      More and more companies are using pre employent medical exams to exclude monovison from employment without even looking at safety record or ability to do the job. Prime example Trident Seafood every position from dock worker to accountant cite vision requirement in both eyes. The one study uded as a basis to exclude monocular people is a DOT Harvard study from th 70s that used erroneously data and now is being applied as “safety concern” for even office positions. Either let us prove we can do the work or give us disablity.

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