August 30, 2019 | News
- A jury verdict in favor of a deaf employee who was prohibited from operating a forklift after years of successful operation was upheld (Siewertsen v. Worthington Industries, Inc., Nos. 16-4259/17-4135 (6th Cir. August 20, 2019)).
- The employee operated a forklift for several years in his role as a shipper. When his employer passed a company-wide policy prohibiting deaf employees from operating forklifts, the employee was moved to a lower-level position with fewer advancement opportunities but did not have his pay reduced. A jury concluded that the employee was capable of performing the essential functions of a shipper position (which included forklift operation), that he suffered an adverse employment action, and that the employer failed to prove that the employee posed a direct threat to himself or others.
- The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the jury verdict. The employee had demonstrated that he could safely operate a forklift even without being able to hear, and his job transfer was an adverse action because it moved him to a less challenging role and limited his opportunity for promotions and raises. Additionally, the employee had operated the forklift for over 10 years without an accident and had effective safety and communication protocols; it was reasonable for the jury to have concluded he did not pose a direct threat, the court said.