National Federation of the Blind Supports Blind Machinist in Employment Discrimination Suit Against Railroad
Omaha, Nebraska (July 25, 2011): With the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind, Frank Hohn, a legally blind locomotive machinist from Hemmingford Village, Nebraska, is taking his discrimination case (Case No. 8:05CV552) against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) to a jury trial tomorrow. The trial will be held before the Honorable United States District Court Judge Lyle Strom. In 2004, BNSF removed Mr. Hohn from his job as a diesel locomotive mechanic, claiming that his visual impairment put his and others' health at risk on the job, even though there was no evidence that Mr. Hohn had difficulty on the job or had ever endangered himself or anyone else. Mr. Hohn has worked safely in machinist positions for over three decades and has never suffered an injury because of his blindness. Since removing Mr. Hohn from his job, BNSF has refused to allow him an opportunity to complete an on-site work evaluation with the help of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Such an evaluation would determine the accommodations that Mr. Hohn might need, if any.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "On the twenty-first anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we stand with Mr. Hohn to combat discrimination on the basis of blindness. Far too often, employers use unfounded fears about the safety of the blind to prevent us from obtaining jobs or to remove us from jobs we are well qualified to do. The National Federation of the Blind is committed to putting an end to this kind of discrimination, which is based on erroneous assumptions about the blind rather than on facts and evidence.”
Mr. Hohn said: "I look forward to telling a jury how much I loved my job and how my disability has never stopped me from working in the mechanical fields."
Mr. Hohn is being represented with the support of the National Federation of the Blind by Scott C. LaBarre of the Denver firm LaBarre Law Offices, and Timothy R. Elder of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein and Levy, LLP.