ST. LOUIS – A quadriplegic lawyer has sued producers of NBC's "The Apprentice," (search) saying the tryouts for the popular reality show discriminate by requiring that would-be contestants be in excellent physical health.
In his federal lawsuit filed here last week, James Schottel Jr. (search) wants a preliminary injunction that would force the show's producers to drop such requirements that exclude him and "others similarly situated" from being considered for the show.
The St. Louis attorney, who has applied to try out for the show when auditions are to be staged here Friday, seeks no monetary damages. He said the lawsuit only is meant to correct a perceived Americans with Disabilities Act violation by Trump Productions LLC and Mark Burnett (search) Productions LLC.
"This isn't a frivolous lawsuit," Schottel said Wednesday. "Since the ADA was enacted, there have been great steps in new buildings and accessibility by (the disabled). But I rarely see a person with a disability on anything" on television.
Schottel, who has not seen disabled people on "The Apprentice" show that bills itself as a "15-week job interview," said he's concerned that the application process either blocks or discourages them. He cited a form warning applicants that "you must be in excellent physical and mental health" and "meet all physical and psychological requirements."
Still, Schottel said he has no evidence anyone disabled has been rejected or discouraged by the show, now in its third season and pitting nine college graduates against an equal number of high school grads in what NBC bills as "book smarts against street smarts."
The series' prize is a job with a Donald Trump enterprise.
A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization in New York directed questions to Los Angeles-based Mark Burnett Productions, which did not return messages.
A spokesman for NBC, which was not named in the lawsuit, said several applicants in wheelchairs were interviewed during a casting call last week in New York.
Schottel called himself a fan of the real-estate mogul Trump, who he doesn't believe condones discrimination and "may leave all this more to the production company."
Schottel, a St. Louis native, attended Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., where he kicked a 44-yard field goal in a playoff football game his freshman year. He said he sustained a spinal cord injury during a 1991 fraternity hazing in which he said no alcohol was involved. He graduated from Saint Louis University's law school in 1999.
The latest season of "The Apprentice," which premiered last month, offers some distinctions in the 18 cast members compared with previous seasons. There are more older candidates (the oldest is 41), more candidates with children (at least three are parents), more candidates with real estate experience (at least six) and no Ivy League graduates.