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Deaf worker whose job offer was rescinded wins bias appeal

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Deaf employees are allowed to use alternate alerting devices to perform their job, says an appeals court that reversed a ruling Monday in favor of a deaf job applicant who had a job offer rescinded after being offered the position.

Kelly Osborne filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming, against BioLife Plasma Services, a blood collecting facility located in Cheyenne that operates under Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter Healthcare Corp. Ms. Osborne’s case stated the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability.

Ms. Osborne, who is deaf but can read lips, applied for a plasma center technician position that required monitoring the donor area’s plasmapheresis machines that remove blood from a donor, separate the plasma and return the red blood cells to the donor. The machines emit audible alarms when something goes wrong. She was offered a position, but BioLife’s human resources department determined Ms. Osborne was not qualified, and the offer was rescinded, according to court documents.

The District Court decided May 30, 2014, that Ms. Osborne did not identify reasonable ways that she could monitor the donor blood machines using other methods to alert her and granted summary judgment to BioLife.

Both parties appealed the ruling. While BioLife wanted a reversal of the court’s opinion that they should pay their own court costs, Ms. Osborne proposed accommodations that would allow her to perform the job of a plasma center technician, including installing alerts on the machines that light up, or call button systems that donors could use when something was wrong.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver concluded that these changes were feasible for BioLife to accommodate and that BioLife only had to contact the plasmapheresis machine vendors to inquire about modifying the machines, which did not prove to be an undue hardship for BioLife to perform.

The appeals court reversed the decision in favor of Ms. Osborne and ruled BioLife’s cross-appeal for costs moot.