United States: eLABORate: Opioid User Loses Disability Discrimination Lawsuit For Failure To Engage In Interactive Process With Employer

Last Updated: March 7 2018
Article by Mark Fijman

The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") requires employers to engage in an interactive process with employees to reasonably accommodate a disability. A federal court in Ohio has highlighted, through a dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an employee who used opioids in the workplace, the fact that the duty to engage in the process applies equally to employees as well. Sloan v. Repacorp, Inc., 3:16-cv-00161 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 27, 2018).

The case centered around plaintiff Robert Sloan's employment as a production manager with Repacorp, Inc., a label manufacturer that utilizes heavy machinery. As noted in the District Court's opinion, there was no dispute that the machinery Sloan worked with and around was very dangerous. Sloan admitted "[i]f you're not careful, those presses will kill you." Due to the dangerous work environment at the Repacorp facility, the company maintains an employee handbook policy that requires all employees to notify management if they are taking nonprescription or prescription medication.

Approximately a year prior to his termination, Sloan began taking a prescribed morphine medication twice daily for neck and back pain. The medication included time-released morphine and instant-release morphine. Sloan would occasionally take the medication at work in a manner not prescribed. Sloan also took the narcotic Vicodin without a prescription, obtaining the pills from both his mother and another co-worker. Sloan did not inform his supervisors at Repacorp that he was taking prescription morphine.

Upon learning that Sloan had been soliciting Vicodin from other employees, Repacorp immediately removed him from the manufacturing floor and required a drug test that same day. Sloan voluntarily submitted to the drug test, which was positive for hydrocodone, the opiate found in Vicodin. Sloan was referred to the company's Employee Assistance Program ("EAP") and placed on leave. Sloan's EAP coordinator requested that he provide certain information from his physician, namely: whether he was permitted to work as a production manager as a result of his medical condition; whether there were any limitations on his ability to work after receiving treatment for his condition; a list of his current medications; and whether the medications prescribed impact Sloan's ability to concentrate on the job. Repacorp placed Sloan on paid leave pending receipt of this information from his physician. Sloan subsequently revealed to Repacorp for the first time that he also was taking prescription morphine.

Repacorp asked Sloan to consult with his doctor to determine if there were any alternative medications or treatment for his pain condition that did not include opiates. Without consulting with his doctor, or otherwise obtaining the information requested, Sloan stated that he needed "to stay on my medication" and told Repacorp that he "wouldn't stop taking it." Repacorp maintained it had no positions that would allow for the use of morphine in the workplace. Sloan's employment was terminated.

Sloan subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming disability discrimination under the ADA as well as a claim of retaliation. Sloan alleged that he was disabled as a result of degenerative disc disease and arthritis in his neck and back, and that Repacorp failed to reasonably accommodate his request to use morphine.

In granting Repacorp's motion for summary judgment, and dismissing Sloan's lawsuit, the District Court determined that Repacorp's request for more information from Sloan was proper under the ADA, and that his failure to engage in the interactive process with his employer doomed his ADA lawsuit:

Here, there is no dispute that [Sloan's supervisor] requested Sloan consult with his physician to determine whether opiate medication was required to control the pain arising from his neck and back disability -- a proper inquiry . . . Sloan, without dispute, did not consult with his physician or other treater and, instead, informed [the supervisor] that he "wouldn't stop taking [morphine]." Sloan's refusal to engage in the interactive process . . . deprived Repacorp from confirming the extent of his disability and the breadth of potential accommodations that might have reasonably been afforded to him. (internal citation omitted)

The District Court's decision should be viewed as a lesson to employers on the value of engaging in the interactive process, even if the employee ultimately refuses to participate. However, the ADA requires employers to make an individualized assessment of an employee's ability to perform a particular job, with a focus on a medical condition's actual effect on that specific employee. As such, employers should avoid making assumptions about the use of medication in the workplace without obtaining additional information.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions