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Paraplegic sues ‘Apprentice’ producers

Would-be contestant claims producers are discriminating against him
/ Source: Reuters

A paraplegic who wants to be on “The Apprentice” has a message for host Donald Trump —“You’re biased.”

James Schottel, a St. Louis lawyer paralyzed from the waist down by a spinal cord injury, has sued producers of Trump’s hit NBC reality show, saying they are discriminating against would-be contestants like himself and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Schottel does not claim to have been turned away yet, but his suit seeks a court order guaranteeing he will be permitted “to apply and be considered for ‘The Apprentice”’ in time for a casting call slated for St. Louis on Friday.

Schottel insists he is capable of taking part in the show so long as “reasonable accommodation” is made for his disability.

The suit, filed in federal court in St. Louis last Friday and made public Tuesday, names the production company of creator and executive producer Mark Burnett and Trump Productions as defendants.

It says potential candidates for the show are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act because the program is billed as a “15-week job interview” in which players vie for a high-paying executive post in Trump’s business empire.

At the end of each episode, Trump eliminates another contestant from the competition with his signature catch phrase, “You’re fired.”

Schottel, a 32-year-old lawyer, said that despite being confined to a wheelchair by paralysis he is otherwise “in very good health” but stands to be excluded from the show due to ”discrimination in the application process.”

Specifically, he claims that rules posted on the show’s Web site violate the law because they require applicants to be in “excellent physical ... health,” to submit to a physical exam and be certified by doctors as meeting “all physical ... requirements.”

The law in question defines discrimination as including “qualification standards,” “employment tests” or other criteria that “screen out or tend to screen out” job applicants whose physical disability is not job-related, Schottel’s suit says.

There was no immediate comment from either production firm. But a spokesman for NBC, which was not named in the suit, said three applicants in wheelchairs were interviewed in New York City last week for the upcoming fourth edition of the show, one of them by Trump himself.

“The Apprentice,” now in its third edition, is averaging 15.3 million viewers per week, ranking No. 17 among all prime-time programs this season, according to Nielsen Media Research.