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Reliance on Medical Screening Tests To Deny Employment Held Discriminatory

Amsted Rail Co. needed to hire a crew of “chippers” to finish the surfaces of steel side frames for railcars. The job required the repetitive use of powered tools that used a large amount of pressure such as chipping hammers, grinders, and 12 pound sledgehammers. Amsted offered employment to a number of qualified “chipper” applicants subject to the passing of a medical examination. Employees performing this job were at a higher risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) from the constant vibrations. Thus, all of the job applicants underwent a nerve conduction test. Those individuals whose test results came back “abnormal” were placed on medical hold. It was believed that abnormal nerve tests showed that the applicants were “right on the verge” of developing CTS. None of those individuals were hired.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued on behalf of the individuals denied employment because of “abnormal” test results as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC was granted partial summary judgment. Amsted did not contest the EEOC’s claim that it perceived these individuals as “disabled.” Furthermore, the federal district court agreed with the EEOC that placing the individuals on medical hold was an adverse act under the ADA. Denying employment to these individuals based on prospective injuries and without any individualized assessment was ruled to be a violation of the ADA. The case will now proceed to determining damages and remedies.