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No Claim for Failure to Accommodate

June 26, 2009
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Related Topics: Employee Leave, Disabilities, Medical Benefits Law, Featured Article, Benefits
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Douglas Quinney worked as an account manager for Swire Coca-Cola USA in Draper, Utah. Driving was an essential function of Quinney’s duties as an account manager. During his employment, Quinney suffered back pain and he took several prescription medications, including Lorcet, Oxycontin, Soma and Duagesic patches to relieve his pain. In December 2001, after hearing from one of Quinney’s co-workers that Quinney was overusing his pain medication, Swire asked Quinney to take a drug test in accordance with its drug and alcohol policy. Because Quinney tested positive for hydrocodone, Swire’s medical review officer concluded that Quinney should not operate a company vehicle while taking pain medication. Quinney was placed on paid leave. He was told to stop using narcotic pain relievers or he could not return to work as an account manager. Quinney was given short-term disability.

In June 2002, Quinney filed a discrimination charge against Swire, alleging that all the drugs for which he tested positive were prescribed by his doctor and that he could not stop taking them. In July and August 2002, Swire met with Quinney four times to offer him jobs that did not involve driving and for which he was qualified. Quinney did not accept any of these four jobs and quit.

Quinney filed suit in US District Court in Utah, alleging that Swire violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because it failed to accommodate his disability. Granting summary judgment and dismissing his claims, the district court found that driving was an essential function of his job, and that Swire did not have to continue to employ Quinney. The court found it “entirely proper for Swire to rely on the opinions of its medical professionals” in determining that Quinney could not drive safely. Quinney v. Swire Coca-Cola USA, D. Utah, No. 2:07-cv-788 (05/18/09).

Impact: Employers are advised to engage in an interactive process with employees seeking job accommodation. The ADA does not require employers to accommodate employees by assigning other employees to take over the duties of a disabled employee.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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