Are Employees Who Take Prescription Drugs Covered Under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) recently ruled that employees who test positive for prescription drugs, and are suspended/terminated as a result of legally taking the prescription drugs, are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The various Federal Courts of Appeals disagree on the interpretation of the ADA regarding whether a person legally taking prescription drugs is covered by the ADA.

This ruling is not currently controlling law in New Jersey or New York. However, it seems to be a growing trend in the interpretation of the ADA that employees who were terminated for taking legally prescribed medicine are not covered by the federal statute or considered to be disabiled. Accordingly, any claim for discrimination as a result of legally taking a prescription drug should be filed under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination or New York City or State Human Rights Laws.

December 6, 2010 – Tom McKinney – Castronovo & McKinney