Oil Drilling Company to Pay Rig Worker $245,619 in Disability Discrimination Suit

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A federal judge ordered that $245,619 be paid to an Alaskan oil rig worker in a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason capped an eight-day trial where a federal jury returned a verdict in favor of the EEOC and Kevin McDowell, a former employee of Houston-based Parker Drilling Company.

The jury found Parker Drilling liable for disability discrimination under both federal and state law when the company withdrew its initial job offer to hire McDowell, an experienced oil rig worker, because he had no vision in his left eye. After the jury found liability and awarded McDowell $15,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain and distress, the judge ordered $230,619 in back pay.

During trial, McDowell testified to the centrality of his rig work to his life and identity.  McDowell, who lost sight in his left eye as a child, never found his monocular vision a hindrance during his 37-year career working various positions on the oil rig floor. In fact, he began his career at Parker Drilling from 1978-1982. After offering him a junior rig manager job on the North Slope in late January 2010, Parker Drilling introduced McDowell as the "newest addition" to its management team. On February 1st, he was notified that his monocular vision disqualified him for the position. When he asked to speak to the company's doctor for re-evaluation, the doctor unsympathetically and simply stated that McDowell could find work with some other drilling company but was not going to work for Parker Drilling.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects workers from discrimination due to an actual or perceived disability. The EEOC filed the suit (3:13-CV-00181-SLG) in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, and McDowell intervened, represented by private counsel Terry Venneberg. 

Parker Drilling provides worldwide drilling services, rental tools and project management, including rig design, construction and operations management for oil drilling operations.

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