TSA Employment Discrimination Alleged by Disabled Applicant

Video Transcript

Male Newscaster:  The TSA has really gotten a bad rap over the past several months.  A lot of folks think pat downs are going too far, people up in arms because small children are undergoing pat downs.

Female Newscaster:  Here is a new TSA story that has us all talking.  A New York man applied for a job with the TSA, but he was turned down.  The man was born without a hand.  That man’s name is Michael Costantino and his lawyer, Jonathan Bell, are both joining us live from New York City to talk about this.

You’ve got the whole nation talking this morning.  Good morning, you two.

Attorney Jonathan Bell:  Good morning, guys.

Mr. Michael Costantino:  Good morning to you.

Male Newscaster:  As a requirement, the TSA says… did they specify that you need both limbs, both hands, in order to do this job?

Mr. Costantino:  Never.  No, they never specified.

Female Newscaster:  Take us through how you applied.  Then was it after you had an interview that they saw you didn’t have the hand, and is that when they turned you down?

Mr. Costantino:  No, actually it’s called an airport assessment.  It was prior to the medical.  I actually passed that.  They basically said you’re pretty much hired; your final step is just to take your medical physical.  I took my medical and then I received a letter within two weeks stating that I failed the physical because I was missing my right hand and I couldn’t perform opening tasks—they said like opening luggage, to perform a proper pat down—which had nothing to do with any of the tests prior to, testing for the job.

Male Newscaster:  You already proved to them that you could do the job requirements that are necessary.  Did you tell them or did they know that you’re an athlete, a former boxer, and all that?

Mr. Costantino:  I’m not aware if they knew about that, no.

Atty. Bell:  And that’s really the problem that we have here with what they did.  They didn’t consider any outside considerations other than the fact that he didn’t have a right hand, and they just assumed that he could not perform this job.  They didn’t look at him as a whole person.  Because he’s missing one hand, they simply stated you cannot perform these activities without even giving him the opportunity to try to perform the activities, or test whether or not he could perform the essential functions of that position.

Female Newscaster:  So once this happened, right then did you think you wanted to fight this, or did it come after?  When did this all come about?

Mr. Costantino:  At first, I was pretty depressed.  I wasn’t planning to fight it because it’s the government.  I said what am I going to do, you know?  It’s pretty much everything set.  But then I contacted Jonathan Bell.  He’s pretty much the top-rated Federal lawyer in the country.  His opinion?  He said, “We have a case there, and you have to fight for your rights.”

Male Newscaster:  So, Jonathan, what is the next step?  What are you guys going to do?

Atty. Bell:  Right now, we’re going through the administrative process to sue the government.  There are certain hurdles you have to jump over before you file suit, so we’re in the middle of exhausting those remedies before we can bring this case into the EEOC and move forward with it.

Female Newscaster:  What do you hope to see happen?  Whether the case gets taken, whether you win or not, what do you hope happens from all of this, the outcome?

Atty. Bell:  Realistically, what we’re suing for is his job, which he should have gotten in the first place.  We want the back pay that he would have received if they hired him in the first place, and then we just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody in the future.  This is a government agency violating Federal government law, and again just making an assumption: because he has a disability, he can’t perform the job.  We don’t want this to happen in the future to anybody else.

Male Newscaster:  Very good.  Thank you to both of you for sharing some time and being on the program with us.  I hope you keep us posted because we’d like to follow this case right to the outcome.

Atty. Bell:  We sure will.  Thank you.

Mr. Costantino:  Thank you so much.

Male Newscaster:  The TSA couldn’t speak specifically on this case because, as they say, “pending lawsuit”—which to me many times is just a cop-out.

Female Newscaster:  That they don’t want to talk about it.

Male Newscaster:  Yes.  But a TSA worker said this: “…the congressional act that created the TSA in 2001 gave the agency the leeway to create its own physical qualifications for the Transportation Security Officer position, and potential employees have to meet certain physical standards to meet those qualifications.”  That’s their statement on the case.

Female Newscaster:  They continue on to say that “…screeners are required to possess basic aptitudes and physical abilities, including color perception, visual and aural acuity, physical coordination, and motor skills.”

That was what they explained.  I couldn’t see a monitor while we were talking to Michael, but there’s quite a bit of video out there circulating.  He was boxing and things like that—

Male Newscaster:  [Interposing] They could run the video.  Run the video.

Female Newscaster:  Look at this.  He definitely is very physically fit, able…  Look at him.

Male Newscaster:  I don’t mean to disparage people that work for the TSA or anything like that, but when you see him here working out, do you think he is possibly in better shape than some other TSA agents you’ve seen in the past?

Female Newscaster:  Yes.  I definitely wouldn’t want to second-guess him, talk back to him, or disrespect him in any way.  Not that I would do that to anyone, but obviously the physical look of him—

Male Newscaster:  [Interposing] The guy’s in good shape.

Female Newscaster:  —is kind of scary.

Male Newscaster:  When the Federal government should be the vanguard, the leading edge of hiring people with disabilities… They’ve obviously perceived in that way.  They’ve obviously been that way in the past.

Female Newscaster:  We’ll see what happens with his case.  We’ll try to follow it and see what the outcome is.