Legal Memorandum: Disability – Chemical Dependency

Issue: Whether the Plaintiff was a qualified individual with a disability, or was perceived as having a disability by Defendant because of his/her chemical dependency.

Area of Law: Employee Law, Government Programs and Benefits, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Chemical Dependence; Qualified individual with a disability
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 162 F.3d 604; 720 F. Supp. 1424; 936 F.2d 579
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2006

The following cases are relevant to this issue:

Alcoholism—Eighth Circuit

·                     Crewe v. United States Office of Pers. Mgmt., 834 F.2d 140 (8th Cir. 1987) (alcoholism is a handicap within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act [and, therefore, by extension, is a disability under the ADA])

Chemical Dependence—Federal Court of Appeals

·                     Nielsen v. Moroni Feed Co., 162 F.3d 604, 609 (10th Cir. 1998) (the status of being a drug user or alcoholic merits protection by the ADA)

Chemical Dependence—Federal District Courts, similar facts

·                     Ambrosino v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 899 F. Supp. 438, 442 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (under the ADA, chemical dependency is considered an impairment, as long as the employee is in rehabilitation and is no longer engaged in drug use; under the Act, the plaintiff physician who was temporarily dependent on Demerol was undisputedly disabled or regarded as disabled, such that termination due to the chemical dependence would be illegal discrimination)

·                     Nisperos v. Buck, 720 F. Supp. 1424, 1427 (N.D. Cal. 1989) (the plaintiff employee, addicted to cocaine, met his burden of proving that he had a disability within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act, because he was regarded as having an impairment by his employer; “[a] rehabilitated drug . . . abuser is a protected handicapped person under the Act.”), aff’d, 936 F.2d 579 (9th Cir. 1991)


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