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Man Sues Black & Decker Over Carpal Tunnel Test

Job applicant says Tennessee manufacturing facility violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when he was rejected for a position after he failed a carpal tunnel exam.

TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A job applicant claims he was denied a job at a Black & Decker plant in Tennessee after failing a test used to predict the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Victor Breehne has filed a class-action suit in Tennessee, claiming the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Breehne, who applied for a job last year at a Black & Decker plant in Jackson, Tenn, that manufactures Porter Cable brand power tools, said in a court filing that he was offered the job contingent on passing a medical exam.
A company doctor stimulated forearm nerves that control hand muscles and concluded it would be inappropriate for Breehne to work in a ''highly wrist-sensitive job,'' the filing said.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also has challenged the tests — which are used in some manufacturing settings — on ADA grounds. The agency lost a federal lawsuit in 2001 against Rockwell Automation Inc. after that company denied jobs to 72 applicants at an Illinois plant.
The EEOC believes the test does not reliably predict the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, or whether it would pose an imminent threat to the person's safety, Chris Kuczynski, assistant legal counsel and director of the ADA policy division at EEOC, told The Baltimore Sun.
Robert Kellner, an attorney who specializes in labor law, said it is not uncommon for job offers to be rescinded based on a medical exam.
''It's legal if the test shows the individual can't perform the essential functions of the job,'' said Kellner, chair of the labor and law practice at Gordon Feinblatt Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander LLC in Baltimore.
Kellner, who is not involved in this case, said companies also can reject candidates if the doctor determines the job would jeopardize the applicant's health and safety or that of other employees. The employer must establish that there is a significant risk that substantial harm could occur in the workplace.
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