Human Resources News & Insights

This might be the dumbest ADA violation you’ll ever read about

It’s reasonable to wonder if a one-eyed man could safely work on an oil rig. But wouldn’t almost 40 years on the job convince you he could?  

Apparently it didn’t convince the Houston-based Parker Drilling Company, which rescinded a job offer to Kevin McDowell after the company learned he was blind in his left eye. He hadn’t been able to see out of the eye since he was a child, and said he’d never found his monocular vision a hindrance during his career.

McDowell had enjoyed a successful 37-year career working various positions on oil rigs in Alaska.

Ironically, he began his career at Parker Drilling from 1978-1982. The firm provides worldwide drilling services, rental tools and project management, including rig design, construction and operations management for oil drilling operations.

And after offering him a junior rig manager job on the North Slope in late January 2010, Parker Drilling introduced McDowell as the “newest addition” to its management team. But just a few days later, the job offer was rescinded — the company said his monocular vision disqualified him for the position.

He asked for a re-evaluation from the company doctor, but “the doctor gave him short shrift and simply stated that McDowell could find work with some other drilling company but was not going to work for Parker Drilling,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

‘I am the oil fields’

You can guess what happened next. McDowell went to the EEOC and filed a complaint, charging Parker with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the agency filed suit against the drilling company.

After an eight-day trial, a federal jury returned a verdict in favor of McDowell, who described his career in the oil fields during trial testimony. “I am the oil fields,” he said at one point.

The jury awarded McDowell $15,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain and distress — and the judge tacked on $230,619 in back pay.

That’s a $245,000 tab — all for an arbitrary decision that flies against common sense.

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