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Daniel E. Law claimed he was fired because a psychiatric exam performed at the illegal request of his then-employer, Garden State Tanning, showed he was a paranoid psychotic; GST claimed the firing was based on Law’s failure to complete the drug treatment program after testing positive for marijuana use. Judge Mary McLaughlin agreed with GST, represented by Morgan Lewis & Bockius’ Michael Ossip, granting summary judgment for the employer in Law v. Garden State Tanning. Law, represented by Reading, Pa., attorney Brooke M. Boyer, failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA, McLaughlin said. And even if Law were “disabled” under the ADA, the GST-requested psychiatric exam falls into the “business necessity” exception of the ADA because completion of the drug-treatment program was a job requirement. Law had worked at Garden State Tanning’s Fleetwood, Pa., leather manufacturing and processing plant for seven years when he developed a rash on his arms. His employer sent him to a local doctor, where he was diagnosed with chromium poisoning. As was GST’s policy, a drug test was also administered. Law tested positive for marijuana, which he admitted to smoking regularly for 29 years. GST’s drug policy requires that employees who test positive for drug use enroll in a drug and alcohol treatment program. Although offenders are not immediately terminated, continued employment hinges on the completion of the treatment program. As dictated by the policy, Law was suspended from work and referred to an outpatient treatment program. Twenty days later, he returned to work but continued to attend evening treatment sessions. Because Law did not meet the treatment goals of the continued sessions, a therapist recommend to GST that Law undergo a psychiatric exam. At GST’s request, a psychiatrist examined Law, diagnosing him as paranoid psychotic and prescribing anti-psychotic medication. Law did not, however, take the medication properly and did not make progress in the outpatient drug treatment program. He was, instead, recommended to a 14-day inpatient program. GST placed Law on short-term disability and told him he could return to work when he completed the inpatient program. Law dropped out of the program after one day; GST then fired him. Law filed suit, claiming his dismissal violated the ADA and Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. But McLaughlin found that Law was not fired for his psychiatric condition but for his drug use and his failure to complete the treatment program. “Law was first suspended from work when the marijuana problem became evident; his failure to take anti-psychotic medication was relevant only because it meant he would fail to complete the in-patient drug treatment program that he was required to complete because of his drug use … . Thus, Law was terminated for his drug use, and not for his psychosis,” McLaughlin wrote. Law was not “disabled,” as defined by the ADA, McLaughlin said. He did not show himself to be “substantially limited” in a major life activity, presenting only deposition testimony of the examining doctor who described Law as a “textbook” case of paranoid psychosis. He did not present a “record of such an impairment.” And he did not show that GST regarded him as disabled. “The mere fact that GST requested a mental examination does not by itself establish that GST regarded Law as being disabled … . In fact, the record indicated just the opposite, i.e. that GST considered the plaintiff to be quite able,” McLaughlin wrote. “… The psychiatrist concluded that with appropriate medical treatment, the plaintiff could successfully complete the prescribed drug treatment program and, therefore, maintain his employment at GST.” The psychiatric exam, GTS argued, was administered because the completion of a drug treatment program was a job requirement and Law was examined to see if he could fulfill that requirement, a goal which the court found to be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” Law also could not meet the “qualified individual” prong of the ADA, McLaughlin said, because the ADA excludes “any employee who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use.” The word “currently,” McLaughlin noted, includes drug use that has a relationship to the employment action and that can be considered an ongoing problem, as set forth in the Eastern District case Salley v. Circuit City Stores Inc. “Even if Law is assumed to have shown a prima facie case of discrimination, he has not carried his burden of showing pretext,” McLaughlin said. “GST has shown a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the termination.” Law presented deposition testimony of a GST supervisor who said Law was fired “because he wasn’t taking his medication,” but “the supervisor’s statement is consistent with the defendant’s legitimate, non-discriminatory reason, and there is no evidence of reliance on any other illegitimate criterion,” McLaughlin said.

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