Jury Hands Diabetic Baggage Handler Sweet Verdict

November 4, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal jury has awarded an insulin-dependent diabetic compensatory damages and back pay, after he was denied employment as a baggage handler.

The case was brought in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Kevin Armstrong, who had applied – and been made a conditional offer by Northwest Airlines – for a job at their hub in Memphis, Tennessee, after he passed a pre-placement physical.  

Subsequently, the airline’s contract physician in Minneapolis learned that Armstrong was an insulin-dependent diabetic, and then withdrew the job offer, according to the suit.

The suit was brought by the EEOC under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

The EEOC filed suit on September 27, 2000, after exhausting its efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement. The jury rejected Northwest Airlines’ defense that Armstrong posed a direct threat to himself or others because his insulin-dependent diabetes was poorly controlled, and awarded the EEOC and the Plaintiff-Intervenor, for the benefit of Armstrong, $19,250 in compensatory damages and $21,000 in back pay.

Katharine Kores, EEOC acting district director in Memphis, said: “The verdict in this case should remind all employers that hiring decisions should be based on the applicant’s real abilities and not stereotypical ideas about an applicant’s disability.”