Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did you hear the one about the one-armed man who applied for a job with TSA?

Michael Costantino was born without a left hand. Should the Transportation Security Administration have hired him as an airport screener? Or, has it violated the ADA by refusing to hire him because of his missing hand? Eva Tahmincioglu reports the details at

After a physical examination by the agency, he got a notice stating he did not qualify for the position because of the “congenital loss of right hand.” …

But an official, who demanded anonymity, said the congressional act that created the TSA in 2001 “gave the agency the leeway to create its own physical qualifications for the Transportation Security Officer position, and potential employees have to meet certain physical standards to meet those qualifications.” The law requires that screeners “possess basic aptitudes and physical abilities, including color perception, visual and aural acuity, physical coordination, and motor skills.”

This case will hinge on whether Costantino could perform the essential functions of the transportation security officer position, including patting down passengers and checking luggage. As this recent case from the Northern District of Ohio makes clear, the ADA does not require an employer to restructure the essential duties functions of a job as a reasonable accommodation.

I would argue that moving passengers through the line as quickly and safely as possible is also an essential function of this position. It is probably safe to assume that Costantino could screen passengers and luggage one-handed, albeit more slowly. If his limitation would cause him to take longer to screen passengers and cause an unneeded back-up, would he be performing all of the job’s essential functions? Before you slam me for being insensitive, answer these questions honestly. Do you want to be in the unnecessarily long security line when you’re trying to catch your flight? Or, would you be murmuring under your breath for the line to move faster as your eyes dart between the line, your watch, and your boarding pass?

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or