“Acrophobic bridge worker protected by ADA”

by Walter Olson on June 6, 2011

The Seventh Circuit said a bridge worker with fear of heights can proceed with his suit contending the Illinois Department of Transportation should have done more to accommodate his wish to work only on those bridge maintenance tasks that did not leave him in an overly exposed position. It also said a jury could reasonably find IDOT was improperly eager for the plaintiff to depart because it regarded him as “annoying” and because he had had frictions with other employees, as when he said of one co-worker, “Sometimes I would like to knock her teeth out.” [Pat Murphy, Lawyers USA; Joe Lustig; Miller v. IDOT, courtesy Law.com]

{ 4 trackbacks }

Advice Goddess Blog
06.06.11 at 9:44 am
The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : I Bet a Lot of Bridge Workers Came Down with Acrophobia This Morning
06.06.11 at 9:50 am
Bridge Worker Afraid of Heights is Protected by ADA
06.06.11 at 7:58 pm
U.S. Seventh Circuit
06.07.11 at 3:31 pm


1 Chris Hoey 06.06.11 at 10:15 am

I suppose this gives hope to the dyslectic proofreader?

2 Bob Lipton 06.06.11 at 11:50 am

You mean the one who left the ‘I’ out of the defendant’s name?


3 Ed 06.06.11 at 12:08 pm

Interesting choice. You fire him and get sued for an ADA violation. Don’t fire him and you get sued when he “knocks her teeth out”

4 DensityDuck 06.06.11 at 2:10 pm

So, according to this precedent, it’s okay to make violent threats against co-workers as long as you’re disabled…

5 Cousin Dave 06.06.11 at 5:52 pm

Walter, there’s another thing about this case… do you know if it was filed in Madison County in Illinois? It appears to me that this may be the case based on the description of the events that led to the lawsuit, but I haven’t found anything that says for sure. Because if it’s in Madison County, we all know what’s going to happen when it goes to trial.

6 mike 06.07.11 at 1:35 pm

I’m sure this is a stupid question, but isn’t the line, “do you have any conditions that would prevent you from doing this job?” still on every application? If it was answered in the negative, the job was taken fraudulently….?

7 Glen 06.08.11 at 6:01 am

Not a stupid question at all. But the times have changed, and the question now is often “Can you perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations.” Since this guy obviously would have thought his accommodation was reasonable, he would have answered “yes.” I’ll read the case, but at first blush, the 7th Cir. did not follow the law. Firing him for being annoying is legal (sometimes bad management; sometimes not – but legal). The illegal reasons to look for were that he had a disability (i.e. “I don’t like employees with disabilitites”), or that he asked for accommodation (i.e. “I don’t like employees who stick up for their ADA rights”).

The right answer would have been that allowing him to be limited to certain jobs would have necessarily made his coworkers have to do the “exposed” jobs more often. If those jobs are less desireable, then accommodation in this way was improper under the ADA.

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