Plaintiff H. Timothy Kreger, 34, a police officer and a recovering alcoholic, suffered from a birth defect in which two fingers are missing from his left hand and the existing middle finger is severely disfigured.
In February 2000, Kreger applied for a police officer position with Baldwin Borough. Following various examinations, the borough ranked Kreger second overall on a list of six eligible candidates. Kreger had also passed a physical agility test in early March 2000.
In spring 2000, three members of the borough's civil-service commission interviewed Kreger for the police officer position. In May of the same year, the members of the borough counsel also interviewed Kreger. During the interview, Kreger was questioned about his physical disability. Disturbingly, in May 2000, Baldwin Borough rejected Kreger's application for employment and hired other applicants
Kreger filed a complaint with the EEOC, and that agency found that the borough violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. In my experience the EEOC rarely concludes a violation following an investigation. The fact that an ADA violation was noted by the EEOC suggests that this was an egregious act against the plaintiff.
Kreger sued the borough, alleging violations of the ADA because it refused and failed to hire Kreger to the position of police officer because of his disabilities, that it refused to make reasonable accommodations for Kreger's known or perceived disability; and that during the hiring process it made prohibited medical inquiries of Kreger.
The evidence at trial showed that the borough hired the first-, third- and fourth-ranked candidates from the list of six eligible candidates and that at least one of the candidates Baldwin hired had been expelled from college because he forged a doctor's excuse to avoid attending classes. Kreger also claimed that, despite his deformed hand, he was and is able to perform all essential functions of the position of police officer, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Kreger contended that both civil-service commission members as well as counsel members discussed his disabilities and that many members of counsel remembered nothing about Kreger other than that he had a deformed hand, and others remembered only that he was a recovered alcoholic. Kreger also contended that in early May, one member of the civil-service commission noted that Baldwin Borough should not hire "that drunken cripple." It is hard to imagine there may be such cold hearted individuals involved in the public services hiring process here in Pittsburgh.
Baldwin Borough disputed that alcoholism is a disability as defined by the ADA. It argued that although the civil-service commission listed Kreger second in rank on a certified list, the borough council had no obligation to hire him. Rather, the municipality argued, under the civil-service laws, it could hire any of the top three candidates. The borough claimed that it utilized appropriate discretion in hiring police officers, other than Kreger, who were within the top three rankings by the civil-service commission, and that Kreger was not nominated by any borough council member.
The borough contended that following Kreger's oral interview with the borough council in May 2000, Chief Christopher Kelly did not recommend him for hire because Kreger did not interview well and that Kelly believed other candidates' backgrounds and credentials would benefit Baldwin Borough. The defense denied that members of council failed to nominate Kreger for hire as a police officer based on anything to do with his hand disability or because of his past treatment for alcoholism.
Kreger countered that the majority of the counsel members claim they had no idea what was wrong with Kreger's interview. The district court granted summary judgment to the defense on the alcoholism-disability claim. This however is a small victory as Kreger's hand was clearly a disability under the ADA.
Kreger sought recovery of lost wages of $422,345 to $414,452. This range reflects his past lost income and lost fringe benefits dating from the alleged discriminatory action until the trial in 2005 plus future lost income. Kreger is now a part-time police officer. He claimed his future lost income was about $232,000. He also sought an unspecified amount of damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering. The jury awarded him $500,000 in compensatory damages.
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