"Apprentice" Producers Settle Discrimination Suit
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 10, 2005
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI--The producers of Donald Trump's NBC television show "The Apprentice" have agreed to add language to their on-line contestant application process encouraging people with disabilities to apply, according to a lawyer who sued the program for discrimination.
Attorney James Schottel Jr., who has used a wheelchair since a 1991 head injury, said Wednesday that he dropped his suit after Mark Burnett Productions, Inc. added the sentence, "All applicants who believe they meet our criteria, including persons with disabilities, are welcome and encouraged to apply to be a participant", to the show's rules.
Schottel sued the company last month alleging that the application rules, which required contestants to be in good mental health and "meet all physical and psychological requirements", discriminated against him and other would-be contestants with disabilities.
"My interpretation of that was that I was excluded," Schottel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Neither Trump Productions LLC nor Mark Burnett Productions admitted any liability, said Schottel, who added that he did not seek any compensation in the deal.
"I think that's satisfactory," Schottel said of the settlement. "I'm still a fan of the show, and I was pleased that the online application is going to be modified and that they have shown they have a commitment to consider people with disabilities. That was my goal from the beginning."
Mr. Burnett said in a statement: "It was never our intent to exclude from consideration persons with disabilities."
"Even before we learned of this lawsuit, our staff in New York had already interviewed three persons in wheelchairs," Burnett said. "We continue to urge all potential participants, including those with disabilities, who are interested to apply for the show."
In 2000, Florida disability rights advocates sued ABC-TV claiming the contestant application process for the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" discriminated against people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have certain physical disabilities. The producers were using a call-in system requiring would-be contestants to answer questions by quickly tapping responses on touch-tone phone buttons.
That suit made its way to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2002 before the producers agreed to settle the case out of court.