Wednesday, February 09, 2005

James, You Can't Walk...You're Fired

A paraplegic has claimed that producers of "The Apprentice" are biased against the handicapped, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Get this...He's suing to be assured that he's fairly evaluated as a potential contestant.

James Schottel does not claim to have been turned away yet, but his suit seeks a court order guaranteeing he will be permitted "to apply and be considered for 'The Apprentice"' in time for a casting call slated for St. Louis on Friday.

Schottel insists he is capable of taking part in the show so long as "reasonable accommodation" is made for his disability.

This is weird. First off, why would he assume they wouldn't cast him before he's even given them a chance? I can imagine that the producers might like to have a guy like Schottel on the show, provided he was suitably upbeat and "inspiring" for viewers. A sour guy who's bitter about his handicap, while more realistic, might not play in Peoria, as they say.

To me, here's the meat of the story:

Specifically, he claims that rules posted on the show's Web site violate the law because they require applicants to be in "excellent physical ... health," to submit to a physical exam and be certified by doctors as meeting "all physical ... requirements."

The law in question defines discrimination as including "qualification standards," "employment tests" or other criteria that "screen out or tend to screen out" job applicants whose physical disability is not job-related, Schottel's suit says.

I'm no lawyer, so maybe I'm not understanding the actual issue here perfectly. But it seems to me that the key to the whole thing is the phrase "job applicants whose physical disability is not job-related." Well, isn't being in good physical health, including having control over all limbs, a neccessity for being on a television show like "The Apprentice"? What if you have to make it quickly across town on foot to complete a task? What if your prize one week is a trip in a helicopter? What if you need to wash a dog in a park, as contestants had to during Season 2?

I'm not saying that having Schottel on would ruin the show, or that he shouldn't have the right to apply like everyone else. But it's clear that the job, as described right now, wouldn't really work out for a man like James Schottel.

This is one of those issues where I tend to clash with other liberals. I sympathize with Schottel's plight, certainly, but I don't feel like regulating things like who gets on a television show really provides any tangible benefit for anyone. This is the sort of lawsuit that gives real, important lawsuits a bad name. It's a guy trying to use the system to make a point, rather than to air a genuine grievance. And it's kind of annoying.

There was no immediate comment from either production firm. But a spokesman for NBC, which was not named in the suit, said three applicants in wheelchairs were interviewed in New York City last week for the upcoming fourth edition of the show, one of them by Trump himself.

I'm basically satisfied by this. It doesn't sound like they're discriminating against people with disabilities. More like James Schottel's afraid they won't like him enough to put him on TV.

No comments: