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Heavy Worker Who Refused To Go Into Manhole Wins Back Benefits

November 22, 1991

SELMA, Ala. (AP) _ The city had no right to fire an overweight worker who couldn’t fit into a manhole to work on sewers, a judge has ruled.

William Perry, 44, was carrying 250 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame when he was fired last year after 2 1/2 years with the sanitation department.

Perry measured 48 inches at the shoulders and 46 inches around the waist at the time, said his lawyer, Geraldine Turner Wofford. The manhole was 23 inches in diameter and a ladder into the sewer made the manhole space even smaller, she said.

Mrs. Wofford said it was the second time Perry had refused to go into a manhole.

After his firing, Perry was rejected for unemployment compensation by the City Personnel Board and the state board of appeals.

He then took his case to Dallas County Circuit Court, where Judge J.C. Norton ruled in his favor after an on-site inspection Wednesday.

The top of the manhole had been paved over since Perry’s firing in May 1990. City workers had to cut it away for Norton to take a look.

Mrs. Wofford said the judge’s ruling will lead to about $2,000 in back unemployment compensation for Perry, who was out of work for six months before he landed a job with a company making lawn mowers.

Perry saluted his lawyer Thursday.

″We’re both fighters,″ he said, adding, ″we both felt what they did to me wasn’t right.″

Perry, who now weighs 235 pounds, said he is much happier at his new job. In sewers ″you see some nasty stuff,″ he said.

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