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Total Articles: 13

Washington Public Employer Hit with $1.8 Million Judgment for Failing to Accommodate Prescription Drug User

Last month, a Washington federal district court judge ordered an employer to pay a terminated employee a little over $1.8 million in damages for failing to accommodate the employee’s use of opioids that had been prescribed to treat her migraines, and for terminating her for a positive drug test result.1 Although employers typically have a right to implement and enforce clear drug-testing policies so as to maintain a safe and productive work environment, the decision underscores the importance of engaging in an interactive process with job applicants and employees and providing reasonable accommodations to those taking prescription drugs for medical conditions.

Casino Employee’s ADA Claims Dismissed Due to Current Drug Use

A federal court in Nevada dismissed a casino employee’s American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claims — even though he had been treated for substance abuse in the past — because he admitted to current drug use which is not protected under the ADA. Scott v. Harrah’s LLC, No. 2:17-cv-01066-APG-VCF (D. Nev. May 9, 2017).

EEOC Increases Scrutiny of Employer Actions Taken Against Prescription Drug Users

Prescription drug abuse has made national news in the last few years. In March 2016, President Obama noted that “prescription opioid abuse and [the] heroin epidemic claims the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each year,” and that he was taking more steps to address the epidemic. He stated on Twitter that the “epidemic is harming too many Americans and their families,” but that “treatment works and recovery is possible.”1

Employer’s Honest Belief That Employee Violated Drug Testing Policy Defeated ADA Claims

An employer that terminated an employee based on its honest belief the employee violated its drug policy was entitled to summary judgment on the employee’s Americans with Disabilities Act claim, according to a Kentucky federal court. The court also granted summary judgment to the employer on the employee’s failure to accommodate and wrongful discharge claims. Adkins v. Excel Mining, LLC, 7:15-cv-00133-ART-EBA (E.D. Ky. Oct. 4, 2016).

Bus Mechanic Who Uses Adderall for ADHD Can Proceed with Disability Discrimination Claims

A federal district court in the District of Columbia has allowed a bus mechanic to proceed with claims of disability discrimination and retaliation, after he was fired for using Adderall to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). McFadden v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, CV-12-940 (D.D.C. September 2, 2016).

Termination For Conduct Caused By Side Effects of Prescription Medication Was Not Disability Discrimination

A federal court in Florida has upheld an employee’s termination due to her “inebriated” conduct that was caused by her use of prescription medications, holding that her discharge did not constitute disability discrimination. Caporicci v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Case No. 8-14-cv-2131-T-36EAJ (M.D. Fla. May 27, 2016).

Protecting Alcoholics, Preventing Alcohol Misuse and Distinguishing Between the Two

It has long been clear that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) protects alcoholism if it qualifies as a “disability.”1 That said, courts have consistently held that employers can have legitimate work rules that prohibit alcohol use in the workforce. However, the line between having a protected disability and engaging in unprotected misconduct while working can easily become blurred, and employers across all industries likely have struggled over this issue. The distinction is important because protected alcoholics may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA and state laws.

Employee’s ADA Claim Advanced Due To Supervisor’s Alleged Demand That Employee Admit To Substance Abuse Problem

An employee who was allegedly fired for refusing to admit he had a substance abuse problem presented sufficient evidence to advance his claim under the “regarded as” prong of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a Massachusetts federal court. The employer denied terminating the employee or demanding that he admit having a substance abuse problem. The Court granted summary judgment on the employee’s Massachusetts anti-discrimination law claim, applying pre-ADA amendment case law, but denied summary judgment on the ADA claim. Izzo v. Genesco, Inc. d/b/a LIDS, Case No. 14-cv-13607-ADB (D. Mass. Mar. 22, 2016).

Pre-Offer Drug Tests Were Not Impermissible Medical Examinations Under The ADA, Court Holds

Pre-offer drug tests to determine the use of illegal drugs did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act’s prohibition on pre-offer medical inquiries, a federal court in Pennsylvania held on September 15, 2015. EEOC v. Grane Healthcare Co. et ano, CV No. 3:10-250 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 15, 2015).

Zero Tolerance for Marijuana Use by Employees: A Prescription for Litigation?

Executive Summary: The dramatic inconsistency between federal and state law with regard to the use of marijuana may mean that employers with zero tolerance policies for marijuana use will face an increasing likelihood of litigation over the termination of employees who violate such policies.

Termination of employee for entering alcohol rehab after a last chance agreement not necessarily a violation of the ADA.

One of the questions asked most often by employers relates to whether the enforcement of a “last chance agreement” with an employee who is recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is a per se violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently answered that question in the negative. Ostrowski v. Con-way Freight, Inc., 3d Cir., No. 12-3899, unpubl’d, 10/30/13.

Dishonest response on an initial application can come back to haunt an employee.

In a non-precedential opinion, the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a hospital’s firing of a security guard who had admitted that he was a recovering drug addict. Because that firing was based upon the fact that the employee previously had denied prior drug or alcohol addition/treatment, the court found that the hospital’s reason for the termination – the employee’s dishonest disclosure – was not a pretext for discrimination. Reilly v. Lehigh Valley Hospital, 3d Cir., No. 12-2078, March 29, 2013.

Nurse With History Of Drug Abuse Not Entitled To Accommodation.

When healthcare professionals such as nurses encounter problems with drug abuse or handling controlled substances, licensing agencies often allow them to keep working, subject to strict, individualized supervision during a prescribed period. This significantly limits the professional’s ability to perform essential job functions and obviously creates staffing challenges.
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