HR Strange But True!
June 28, 2001
You already know that HR is never boring, but here's proof from this week's news that it can get downright weird...

A Green Light to Sue

Colorblindness should be no barrier to most jobs. But officials of Palm Beach County in Florida have decided to draw the line at installing traffic lights.

The county fired Cleveland Merritt from that job on grounds of his colorblindness in 1997, and Merritt has responded by filing a discrimination suit under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

It is one of only two lawsuits relating to colorblindness brought under the decade-old ADA, the county attorney's office told the Palm Beach Post.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has already found that the county discriminated. The lawsuit, filed as a consequence of the EEOC ruling, is scheduled for trial in October. Merritt is seeking lost wages dating to the day he was fired from his $20,000-a-year job.

Assistant County Attorney Leon St. John, who plans to ask a judge to dismiss the case next week, doesn't deny that the county discriminated against Merritt. It's just not illegal discrimination, he said.

"It's common sense. He couldn't do what he was required to do," St. John told the Post.

The dispute doesn't have anything to do with Merritt's ability to distinguish one light from another. Rather, the county alleges that Merritt's colorblindness kept him from the essential task of discerning some of the 19 differently colored wires within a traffic light.

But Merritt's lawyer, Sandra Bosso-Pardo, says her client could have stayed on the job. Instead of wiring the traffic lights, she said, Merritt could have performed a number of other tasks with his traffic-light construction crew, including setting up traffic-light posts, digging up streets, and hanging wires.

"Why they didn't give him another job isn't clear," Basso-Pardo said. Merritt, a 54-year-old Riviera Beach man, suspects he didn't get another job because he is black, she said.

Source: Palm Beach Post.

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