Disabled Man Suing TSA for Alleged Discrimination
Newscaster: A man born without a right hand is now suing the TSA for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Michael Costantino is a Golden Gloves boxer who says he’s gone toe to toe with the former world champions… and now, he wants to know why the TSA deemed him medically unfit to be a security screener. Here now, Michael Costantino,and his attorney Jonathan Bell.
Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have you both here today. You said you went in there; you passed the test. Tell us your story.
Mr. Michael Costantino: I passed the initial screening test—it’s a computer test where you have to pass an x-ray [phonetic] exam, about 200 questions. Passed that, then the next step was an airport assessment. I passed that. It was almost like a job interview as well. Then the third step was a background check. It’s a government job, so they have to do a thorough background check.
Then the last and final step was the physical. I took the physical; I received an email saying I failed. I said, “I don’t understand. Possibly how could I have failed?” So then I received a letter about two weeks later stating that they’d disqualified me because I was born without a right hand [phonetic].
Newscaster: And what in this job description would you not be able to do because of your hand?
Mr. Costantino: Nothing. I’m capable of doing everything.
Newscaster: Opening suitcases, putting things through the screeners—all the stuff that you see them doing at the airport every day.
Mr. Costantino: Yes.
Newscaster: What’s their response, Jonathan? Let me ask you that.
Attorney Jonathan Bell: As of right now, they’re basically stating that they have a right to do this because Congress gives them that right. My question to them is Congress gives you a right to discriminate against someone and just assume that my client can’t do something because he has a disability?
This guy is a Golden Glove boxer. As a citizen, I would love to have him as the first line of defense against terrorism in that TSA line. If things got out of control, I know for a fact that Michael Costantino could handle himself.
Newscaster: What drew you to want to work at TSA?
Mr. Costantino: It’s a good job, good benefits… good upside working for the government.
Newscaster: Did they ever ask you to demonstrate your ability to do the job? Did they ever say come on in, Michael; let’s put you through the ropes here and make sure that you can handle it?
Mr. Costantino: No. Never once was stated in that letter that—open luggages? I never had to perform any of those tasks that they stated.
Newscaster: Were all of the tests that you took online before the physical?
Mr. Costantino: No, not online; they were in TSA facilities. But basically—
Newscaster: [Interposing] So you met with them. They were fully aware of your situation. They know that you’re an athlete and a boxer and all of that, right?
Mr. Costantino: Well, I’m not too sure if they were aware of that, but pretty much they met me. They knew about my—
Newscaster: [Interposing] And the interview went well in your interactions with them? You felt as though you impressed them? You felt like the job was going to happen, right?
Mr. Costantino: Basically, yes.
Atty. Bell: The problem is they didn’t consider him as the whole person. What is Michael Costantino other than his disability? If they’d factored in the fact that he was a boxer, if they saw the things that he’s capable of doing, we wouldn’t be here right now. That’s the whole part of the case.
Newscaster: You certainly haven’t put any limitations on yourself, have you?
Mr. Costantino: No.
Newscaster: So where does the lawsuit stand now, Jonathan?
Atty. Bell: We’re in the informal stages. We have to exhaust all administrative remedies. It’s not that easy to sue the government. We have to jump through some hoops. We’re in the process of jumping those hoops.
Newscaster: If they called you today and said, okay we’re sorry about this and we’d like to offer you the job, would you drop everything and take the job?
Mr. Costantino: Yes.
Atty. Bell: That, plus the back pay that he should have gotten if they gave him it originally. And also I want them to be on notice not to do this to people in the future, because there are other people coming out of the woodwork now to me.
Newscaster: You think you could do the job better than some of the people that you see when you go through the line?
Mr. Costantino: There’s only one way to find out, but I think I could.
Newscaster: Good luck to you, Michael. Thank you very much. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Thank you, Jonathan.