NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The ADA Gives Job Security To Horrendous Employees

June 23, 1997

Critics say it's getting so employers can't fire almost any employee -- even the worst. If they try it, they are almost sure to make the government mad.

In his new book, "The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace," author Walter Olsen documents some recent cases.

  • Several years ago, Northwest Airlines was forced under the Americans with Disabilities Act to rehire a pilot it had fired for flying a plane while his blood alcohol level was a staggering 0.13 percent -- FAA restrictions being no higher than 0.04 percent -- because, having completed an alcohol rehabilitation program, he was protected by law.
  • Under the same law, a heart surgeon at UCLA Hospital who spread hepatitis B to 18 patients was allowed by the hospital to keep right on operating so the hospital could continue to be "in compliance with federal regulations."
  • The ADA also protected a manic-depressive against an employer who did not want to hire him as a crane operator.
  • Similarly, a Michigan jury awarded $610,000 to a surgeon who frequently fell asleep due to the "protected" disability of narcolepsy.

Courts have also ruled against a company that refused to hire a machine operator who had been convicted of first-degree murder -- because the offense was not recent and was unrelated to his job.

Another court found against a company that was reluctant to hire a convicted shoplifter as a dock worker -- because the items he had stolen had not been valuable.

Courts have also ruled that job applicants have a "right to lie" if they are asked in an interview if they have a criminal record, a history of mental illness or a problem with alcohol.

Source: David R. Henderson, "Why You Can't Fire Anybody," Fortune, June 23, 1997.


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