Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Can I be rejected for a job simply because I am deaf? What if a perspective employer claims my hearing impairment creates a risk at work? How do I prove a claim of disability discrimination against my employer?
Disability discrimination laws protect disabled employees not only from being fired (wrongful termination) and discrimination on the job, but also makes sure that they have the same opportunities to be hired. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“) makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against “a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to . . . terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.”
There is no doubt that those who have hearing impairments face an uphill battle in finding employment. There have been numerous instances of employers finding ways to deny employment to deaf applicants. A wide majority of those instances involve the employer finding out through the application process that an applicant is deaf, and then fabricating reasons why a deaf employee would pose risks in the workplace. Sadly, many of these applicants are absolutely qualified for the position and are simply discriminated against due to their disability. It is incredibly important, especially in light of a recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal decision, that applicants that face discrimination because of a hearing impairment do not simply accept the discrimination without seeking a lawyer and fighting back.
In Osborne v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., an applicant with a hearing impairment applied for a job at Baxter’s plasma center. The applicant, Kelly Osborne, went through two interviews and was subsequently given a conditional offer of employment pending a background check. At some point after giving Ms. Osborne a conditional offer, Baxter discovered that she was legally deaf. Instead of quickly realizing that Ms. Osborne could perform all functions of her job even with her disability, Baxter rescinded the offer for the express reason that Ms. Osborne was deaf:
After receiving Ms. Osborne’s medical paperwork, BioLife’s human resources department—which is based in Illinois—determined she could not safely monitor the donor area of the facility because she could not hear the audible alarms on the plasmapheresis machines, which sound when something goes wrong or needs attention. When Ms. Osborne reported to work in September 2008, Mr. Elder informed her that, because of safety issues, BioLife had rescinded her offer of employment. Ms. Osborne contacted BioLife, and Melissa Grabiner, a Staffing Manager, explained in an email that BioLife could not hire her as a PCT because she would be unable to hear audible alarms on the plasmapheresis machines and could not safely monitor donors.
Luckily, Ms. Osborne sought legal assistance for the obviously discriminatory denial of employment. Ms. Osborne filed suit against Baxter claiming that Baxter discriminated against her by rescinding her job offer because of her disability. As you have read extensively in our employment discrimination attorneys‘ Disability Discrimination blog section, many disability discrimination cases hinge on whether or not a particular condition is considered a disability as well as whether or not the adverse employment action (not hiring, suspending, demotion or termination among others) was based on the disability. (See ADA: Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Is A Disability; Can My Boss Terminate My Employment Because I Am Getting Fertility Treatments? Top Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Reply; Is Alcoholism A Disability Under The ADA? Top Disability Discrimination Attorney Reply; Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer: Is It Disability Discrimination If My Job Will Not Accommodate My Anti-Social Disorder?; Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Can I Bring A Service Dog To Work As A Disability Accommodation Under The ADA?; Americans with Disabilities Act – YouTube).
In this case, Baxter did not even challenge that 1) Ms. Osborne is disabled and 2) that her offer was rescinded for any other reason but her disability.
With those two issues out of the way, Baxter argued that Ms. Osborne’s job offer was taken away because she was not qualified for her job, more specifically, that because of her disability, she posed a risk to Baxter’s patients. Baxter somehow commissioned a study that said Ms. Osborne’s hearing impairment would pose a .0004% chance that a plasma donor would have an adverse reaction. How they came up with that miniscule number is less than clear in the opinion, but the Court was not swayed in the least bit by Baxter’s study. The Court held, “The infinitesimal risk of these hypotheticals occurring simultaneously – which is much less than 0.0004% when the risk of adverse reaction is multiplied by the probability of the other occurrences – does not come anywhere close to constituting a ‘direct threat.’”
Thus, the Court held that a simple chance of risk at work is not enough to deny employment to someone with a hearing impairment or other disability. In fact, to deny someone with a disability a job on the basis of his or her disability posing a risk at work, an employer must show a “direct threat.” The Court also rejected Baxter’s argument that Ms. Osborne’s request for a vibrating alarm was not reasonable. The Court found that Ms. Osborne’s request was completely reasonable considering Baxter’s only argument that it was not reasonable was that it would have to call an outside vendor to install a vibrating alarm on the work equipment.
All in all, this case sets a perfect example of why someone who is discriminated against on the basis of his or her disability must seek legal advice immediately. Employers will create whatever excuse best suits them to deny employment to someone with a disability, and an experienced employment attorney can help you fight back.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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