Law Offices of Lauren Abrams blog

What does not constitute disability discrimination

While workplace discrimination unfortunately does occur in California, not every incident that is perceived by an employee to be discriminatory is prohibited under the law. As a June decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit demonstrates, there are some practices that may appear discriminatory on their face but which are not forbidden.

In the case, a man who worked for Ford was injured while he was working. After he was injured, he was placed on restricted duties permanently. Ford accommodated the man's restrictions for the following 9 years when the man's doctor lifted the restrictions. During that time, the man had become addicted to the opioid painkillers that he had been prescribed for his workplace injuries.

When an apprenticeship position came open, the man applied for it. He told Ford that he hadn't used the opioid medications for 3 months. Before taking a physical, the man supplied the company with doctor clearances, one of which stated that his opioid use would not interfere with the work involved. Ford and the man then agreed that the man would be required to get an independent examination. That doctor noted that he was taking the opioids, which was not consistent with what he had claimed. The doctor also said that his workplace restrictions could not be lifted unless he truly stopped taking them. The man was then passed over for the position, and he sued Ford claiming disability discrimination.

The court held that Ford believed that the man was on restrictions and that he wouldn't be able to perform the duties of the job because of his opioid use, dismissing the case. People who think they have been subjected to disability discrimination may want to talk to an employment law attorney to see if they actually have a provable case.

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