Danny David, a former Penn State University police candidate, has filed a lawsuit against the university on February 12, 2020, for alleged illegal discrimination based on his mild colorblindness (Metts, 2020).
Although the university filed a motion to dismiss the case in court, Stephanie Haines, the district judge presiding over the case, denied their motion.
About the Lawsuit
David currently works for the university as a public safety officer and applied for an open university police officer position in 2017. He received a conditional job offer from the university in 2018 as long as he met the medical requirements described in the position.
David was required to take a vision test as part of the conditional offer, which revealed he had a mild deficiency in distinguishing between red and green. After receiving this finding, the university withdrew the conditional offer and denied David the job.
David has worked in law enforcement for over twenty years and claims that he was never disqualified for a job due to his colorblindness.
The lawsuit alleges that Penn State cannot disqualify a candidate because of a disability or perceived disability without performing an individualized assessment of the candidate’s disability to determine that the disability will prevent the person from performing specific aspects of the job that are required.
Margaret Coleman, David’s lawyer, said that they supplied the university with an ophthalmologist report that said that the man’s mild color blindness would not affect his job.
Despite this, the university withdrew David’s conditional offer of employment and did not give him the position.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 “protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.” (U.S. Department of Education 2010). This right extends to the right to participate in, not be denied benefits and not to be discriminated under any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.
The university challenged David’s claim by arguing that his mild color blindness is not recognized as a disability because it does not alter any major life activities.
A conforming amendment that broadened the definition of a “disability” was made to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 2009. It expanded the scope of “major life activities” and provided a non-exhaustive list of general activities and major bodily functions that may be considered a “disability.” Among other things, major life activities now include “caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.” (34 C.F.R. 2008).
Former PSU Police Officer Candidate Files Lawsuit Against the University, February 12, 2020, Sarah Metts, https://wjactv.com/news/local/former-psu-police-officer-candidate-files-lawsuit-against-the-university
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Free Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Washington, D.C., 2010.
34 C.F.R. Part 104, https://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/reg/ocr/edlite-34cfr104.html