by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology
In a prior alert involving Solano Pace, we reported that a disability services provider rescinded an offer of employment following discovery of a physical impairment (partial paralysis in one arm) have little or nothing to do with the essential functions of the job (teaching) see (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-11-12.cfm)). The settlement with RSC consultants is relatively small (for $45,000), but illustrates the same principle (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-10-12.cfm). It is illegal, of course, to make medical inquires of any sort prior to a conditional job offer. However, it also illegal to draw improper conclusions about the ability to perform essential job functions in a post-offer inquiry. The only difference the RSC and Solano Pace cases is Solano Pace is a pending lawsuit, whereas RSC is an actual settlement. Otherwise the main principle in these two cases is basically the same.
In the instant case, Stanton Woodcock interviewed with RSC and was offered a managing consulting position. RSC then learned that Woodcock has ocular albinism, an inherited condition in which his eyes lack melanin pigment. As a result, he is precluded from driving motor vehicles. RSC, after learning of Woodcock’s impairment, rescinded the job offer. The EEOC’s position, which is analogous to its position in the Solano Pace case, is that driving is not one of the essential functions of the job and, that otherwise, Woodcock was “fully qualified to perform the duties of the managing consultant position.”
The moral is simple. It is legal to deny employment after a post-offer medical exam if the impairment precludes or limits performance of an essential job function, and there is no available reasonable accommodation that overcomes such a barrier. However, as illustrated in both the Solano Pace and RSC cases, employers must ensure that regardless of the nature of the impairment discovered or disclosed, that they make no job-related decisions if the impairment is irrelevant to the main features of the job, including issues related to reasonable accommodations.
July 17, 2012