A construction company offered a mechanical engineer with over 20 years of experience a job as a field engineer at a mining site. But it revoked the offer after learning that the applicant had a rotator cuff impairment that prevented him from lifting his right arm above his shoulder.

As part of the application process, the applicant underwent a pre-employment physical. The doctor cleared the applicant for the position so long as the company offered him some accommodations, including no driving company vehicles, no lifting, pushing or pulling more than 10 pounds, and no working with his hands above shoulder level.

The company did not agree with the proposed accommodations and determined that the applicant was not capable of performing the job.

The applicant filed a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC concluded that the company engaged in disability discrimination because:

  1. it failed to discuss the proposed accommodations with the applicant,
  2. providing the accommodations would not have imposed a hardship on the company, and
  3. the company did not show that the applicant would have posed a threat to himself or his co-workers in the job he was applying for.

Following the EEOC decision, the applicant sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The district court dismissed the case, finding that the applicant could not prove that he was disabled, and that even if he was disabled, he was not qualified for the job.

He appealed, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and found that the company had violated the law. In doing so, it determined that the applicant was in fact disabled. He was substantially limited in his ability to perform major life activities, such as lifting and reaching, and these limitations were the reason he was not offered the job. It also found that the applicant was able to perform all of the essential functions of the job he had applied for.