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Worker Unlawfully Prohibited From Taking His Disability-Related Medication EEOC Lawsuit Charges

Lawyer is holding Disability Discrimination Act DDA.

In a press release issued on April 15, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Army Sustainment, LLC (Army Sustainment). On April 6, 2020, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Army Sustainment, LLC, Case No. 1:20-cv-00234, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama after attempting to remedy the alleged discriminatory employment practices through its lawfully mandated conciliation process. Unable to secure from Army Sustainment an acceptable conciliation agreement, the EEOC moved forward with endeavoring to eliminate the alleged discriminatory employment practices through litigation.

EEOC Claims Unlawful Discrimination

Army Sustainment is a government contractor which provides aviation maintenance support to the U.S. Aviation Center and U.S. Air Force at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Beginning in 2016, Army Sustainment maintained an Alcohol and Drug policy which prohibited the use of certain prescription medications during both working and non-working hours, including various pain control medications. For any prescription medication not allowed under Army Sustainment’s Alcohol and Drug policy, employees were required to sign a written statement agreeing to discontinue the use of the prohibited prescription. Army Sustainment did not allow employees to return to work unless they signed an agreement that they would cease all use of prescription medications prohibited under its Drug and Alcohol policy.

Disabled Employee Discriminated Against

Simmons, according to the EEOC, is disabled within the meaning of the ADA based on having torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders. On August 1, 2016, Simmons returned to work from a four-month medical leave of absence after surgery for his torn rotator cuffs. After he returned to work, Simmons disclosed that he was taking a pain medication prescribed by his doctor for his torn rotator cuffs which Army Sustainment deemed banned under its Alcohol and Drug policy. Consequently, Army Sustainment required Simmons to sign a written statement agreeing that he would discontinue the use of the prohibited prescription pain medication and that he would be subject to termination if he continued to take the banned prescription pain medication.

Simmons signed the letter agreeing to discontinue the use of the prohibited prescription pain medication because he did not want to be terminated and lose his job. Simmons discontinued the use of the prohibited prescription pain medication and was treated by his doctor with alternative pain medications. These alternative pain medications were not as effective at managing Simmons’ pain. As a result, Simmons was required to take intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act when his pain flared up.

Refusal To Accommodate Disabled Employee

The EEOC maintains that Simmons performed his job safely and did not pose a threat to the safety of himself or others while using the prohibited prescription pain medication. The EEOC claims that Army Sustainment’s refusal to allow Simmons to return to work and the threat of termination if he continued to use his disability-related prescription pain medication constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability. The EEOC further claims that Army Sustainment violated the ADA by refusing to accommodate Simmons’ disability by allowing him to use the banned prescription pain medication when his use of the medication did not pose a threat to the safety of himself or others. Instead of engaging in an interactive process to determine whether Simmons could safely perform his job when taking his prescribed pain medication, Army Sustainment unlawfully enforced against Simmons a “blanket policy prohibiting all use of certain medications.”

Enforcing Federal Law Laws

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal labor laws prohibiting employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In enforcing the federal labor laws, the EEOC is granted the authority under federal law to file lawsuits on behalf of employment discrimination victims. In a press release issued by the EEOC on April 15, 2020 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, Marsha Rucker, explained that the ADA mandates that “an individualized assessment of an employee’s ability to perform his job duties safely is required before prohibiting employees from taking medications prescribed to treat and manage their disabilities.”

Consult With Gainesville Labor Law Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida labor law attorneys have been fighting for employee rights for more than two decades. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or have questions about your employee rights under the federal labor laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Gainesville, Florida labor law lawyers. Our employees’ rights law firm takes labor law cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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