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)