Jury instructions regarding the "direct threat" affirmative defense in an employment discrimination case required an employer to prove more than legally necessary, the Tenth Circuit ruled on Monday. An employer must only show that he had a reasonable belief that an impaired worker's job performance would pose a significant risk of substantial harm in order to avoid liability. Contrary to the district court instructions, a jury need not determine if such a threat actually existed.
The case involved a legally blind employee of Beverage Distributors Company in Colorado. The company rescinded the worker's job offer in the company's warehouse, believing that he would need reasonable accommodations under the ADA.