One-handed man says TSA discriminated against him

July 27, 2011 - 7:29 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A one-handed man says the Transportation Security Administration unfairly rejected him for a job at New York's LaGuardia Airport, even though he's fully capable of unzipping luggage and patting down passengers.

Michael Costantino, 32, said Wednesday he has filed a complaint with the TSA alleging that the agency violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by disqualifying him during a medical exam in January.

The TSA said it could not comment on pending litigation, but said its rules require job applicants to "possess basic aptitudes and physical abilities, including color perception, visual and aural acuity, physical coordination, and motor skills."

An outside company conducts the medical exams, the TSA said.

Costantino applied for a job as a screener at LaGuardia about 18 months ago, he said. He passed an initial test in which screeners must pick out weapons on X-ray images, then cleared a background check and a job interview with a panel of TSA officials. None of them mentioned his lack of a hand, Costantino said.

"It never came up until the final stage of the application process, the medical exam," he said.

He took the exam in January; two weeks later he received a letter telling him he was disqualified because of his disability.

Costantino, who was born without his right hand, is an amateur boxer and previously managed a delicatessen in Brooklyn.

He said the medical examiner never tested him to see if he could perform the physical tasks required of a screener.

"They just made an assumption, based on the fact that he has a disability, that he cannot perform the job," said Jonathan Bell, his lawyer.

Costantino said he complained to the TSA in February, then filed a formal claim with the TSA's Equal Employment Opportunity Office in June. The office has 180 days to investigate the claim. After that, Costantino can request a hearing before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.