Change a no-narcotics policy to accommodate an employee? No way!

Just seems like common sense to me, especially where the employee seeking the accommodation would have to operate a motor vehicle.

Wait a minute!

Did an employee with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act really think it would be reasonable for his employer to allow him to take narcotic pain medication so that he could operate a company vehicle pain free?

More after the jump…

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Well, were it not for those folks, I wouldn’t have this blog. So, thank you, John Peter Zizzo. And here’s an explanation from a federal court in Illinois as to why an employer doesn’t have to relax a no-narcotics policy in this situation:

It was still Jewel’s policy not to allow drivers to work as spotters if they used narcotics. Zizzo has not shown that it would be a reasonable accommodation for Jewel to alter its policy to allow him to drive a spotter jeep and haul semi-trailers around the Jewel distribution center at a time when he was using narcotics. Requiring Jewel to allow Zizzo-an employee who was using narcotics when he requested the spotter position–to drive spotter jeeps would put Jewel on a razor’s edge–liable to Zizzo if it refuses to let him drive spotter jeeps and liable to anyone Zizzo injures if it knowingly allows him to drive. Such an accommodation would not be reasonable, as a matter of law.

In a footnote, the court added that, even if Zizzo had provided his employer with medical evidence that the narcotics did not affect his cognitive function, the court would have reached the same outcome. You can view a copy of the full court opinion here.

I wonder what would have happened if, instead of requesting to be allowed to take narcotics and operate a motor vehicle, had requested a defined period of leave as a reasonable accommodation until such time as he healed to the point where he no longer need narcotic pain medication.


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