Americans with Disability Act – Disability claim of discrimination and retaliation of a commercial driver who was terminated for consuming prescribed opioids dismissed



An Indiana-based federal court has dismissed claims of disability discrimination and retaliation from a commercial driver who failed a drug test due to prescription opioid use. The court ruled that failure to provide a letter of safety concern or to comply with their employer’s or Department of Transportation (DOT) policies was fatal to the employee’s claims.

In this case, the employee was a driver for a large shipping company and underwent dental surgery in 2014. This resulted in the employee being prescribed opioid pain relievers, and in accordance with employer and Department of Transportation regulations. , the employee has disclosed this requirement to the employer and the documentation provided. The employee was told to take a day off if he needed to take the medication.

According to DOT rules, the driver should undergo regular DOT medical examinations and report any medication that may cause an inability to operate a motor vehicle safely on the employee’s medical examination report form. . However, as of 2016, the employee never noted the use of prescription drugs.

However, five years after being prescribed the opioid pain reliever on March 30, 2019, the employee chose to consume the drug. The next day, the driver underwent a DOT-mandated random drug test, which resulted in a positive test for opioids. Before taking the test, the driver informed the medical adviser (MRO) of the prescription.

This MRO advised the employee to provide a letter of safety concern from the prescribing physician. This would include confirmation that the drug was being administered under the supervision of a medical provider and that it would not pose a safety concern.

However, the employee was unable to produce this letter since the prescribing physician had retired since prescribing the drug, and the firm refused to produce such a letter for a drug prescribed five years previously. Failure to provide the necessary documents, the employee was dismissed.

In response, the driver took legal action against the employer, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The defendant sought summary judgment, arguing that, in part, the employee’s failure to comply with the employer’s drug and alcohol policies precluded such an argument.

The court sided with the defendant, finding that the employee had violated DOT and employer policies by failing to provide the necessary documents and further failed to request an accommodation. The court ruled that the plaintiff’s allegation of retaliation could not be established due to the absence of any protected activity. Particularly because the employee had never disclosed the use of pain relievers in the DOT medical assessment reports in the three years preceding the termination.

As such, the court allowed the summary judgment motion in favor of the employer.


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