One-month rehab doesn't bring employee within safe harbor of ADA
Mauerhan v. Wagner Corp., No. 09-4179 (10th Cir. 04/19/11).
Ruling: The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment to a corporation on a sales representative's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
What it means: According to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, under the ADA of 1990, an individual is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs if the drug use was sufficiently recent to justify the employer's reasonable belief that the drug use remained an ongoing problem.
Summary: A sales representative for a corporation entered into an outpatient drug rehabilitation program. Later, the corporation asked him to take a drug test. He tested positive and was terminated. He entered an inpatient program. When he completed the program, he was drug-free for one month. His counselor issued a report describing his recovery prognosis as "guarded," and a specialist said that he would need three months of treatment.
He sought to return to work. The corporation told him he could return, but he would not receive the same level of compensation. He declined the offer and sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, alleging the corporation discrimination against him because of his drug addiction. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the corporation, finding that the one-month drug-free period was insufficient to come within the ADA's safe harbor exception for those who are not currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs.
Under the ADA, a worker is not a qualified individual with a disability if he is currently using illegal drugs. However, a safe harbor provision exempts from the exclusion those who have successfully completed or are participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in illegal drug use. Although no bright-line rule exists to determine when an individual is no longer currently using drugs, the court found that the representative did not raise triable issues. It reasoned that an individual is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs if the drug use was sufficiently recent to justify the employer's reasonable belief that the drug use remained an ongoing problem.
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June 9, 2011
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