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LAW v. GARDEN STATE TANNING

February 12, 2001

DANIEL E. LAW
V.
GARDEN STATE TANNING



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The plaintiff, Daniel E. Law, is suing his former employer, defendant Garden State Tanning ("GST"), under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.C.S. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"). The plaintiff alleges that GST improperly requested a psychiatric exam of the plaintiff during the course of his outpatient drug recovery program, and that GST improperly terminated him upon learning that he was a paranoid psychotic. The defendant and the plaintiff have each moved for summary judgment. The Court will grant the defendant's motion and deny the plaintiff's motion.

I. Background

The plaintiff was employed at the defendant's leather manufacturing and processing plant in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania for approximately seven years. At all times relevant to the case, GST had a Chemical Substance and Alcohol Control Policy (the "Policy") in effect, which the plaintiff received and understood. The Policy prohibits employee use of' a controlled substance, alcohol, or another currently legal substance in a way that interferes with work safety, conduct, performance, or attendance of any employee. If an employee tested positive for drug use, GST would refer the employee to a drug and alcohol treatment program rather than immediately terminating him. Continued employment would be contingent on the employee's completion of a recovery treatment program within a reasonable period of time. See Law Dep., D. Ex. A, 29-30, 32, 39, 41.*fn1

On February 6, 1998, the plaintiff complained to the defendant of a rash on his arms. He was sent to a local medical services provider, where he was diagnosed with chromium poisoning. Pursuant to the Policy, the provider also tested the plaintiff for drug use and found traces of marijuana, which the plaintiff admitted to having smoked regularly for 29 rears. In accordance with the Policy, the defendant suspended the plaintiff from work, referred him to an outpatient treatment program, and stated that failure to complete the program would result in immediate termination. See Law Dep., D. Ex. A, 43-45, 51-52, 57, 64.

The plaintiff returned to work on February 26, 1998, once he presented a clean urine sample, but the treatment program continued with evening drug treatment sessions. See Law Dep., D. Ex. A, 80-81. When the plaintiff failed to meet treatment objectives, his therapists suspected that he might have a mental illness that was hindering his progress in the treatment program. In March of 1998, the therapists recommended to GST that the plaintiff have a psychiatric examination. See Warne Dep., D. Ex. L, 40, 43-44; Kiss Aff., D. Ex. N, ¶ 3. The defendant requested such an exam. See Klein Dep., D. Ex. P, 20.

A psychiatrist examined the plaintiff on April 15, 1998, diagnosed him as a paranoid psychotic, and prescribed an anti-psychotic medicine. See Am. Compl., ¶ 18; Chastka Dep., D. Ex. O, 9, 12-13. Although the plaintiff continued to work at the defendant's factory, even working 26 hours of overtime over a 3-month period, the plaintiff failed to take his medication properly. (The plaintiff claims that the medication had painful side effects.) See Law Dep., D. Ex. A, 113-14, 116-18; Law Dep., Pl.Ex. 2, 147. The plaintiffs progress in the outpatient program remained unsatisfactory. Consequently, the outpatient program referred the plaintiff to a 14-day inpatient program, which the plaintiff' agreed to attend. See Durand Dep., D. Ex. H. 38-40, 48-49; Kern Dep., D. Ex. K, 9, 44-45, 48, 57, 86-87; Law Dep., D. Ex. A, 127, 129, 133. The plaintiff was placed on short-term disability at work and was told that he could return once he completed the program. The plaintiff dropped out of the program after one day and was deemed not to have completed his drug treatment program. Thereafter, on May 20, 1998, the defendant terminated the plaintiff. See Law Dep., D. Ex. A, 129-30, 138, 154; Kern Dep., D. Ex. K, 91, 93.

The plaintiff contends that he was impermissibly terminated under the ADA and PHRA because the defendant learned that he was a paranoid psychotic. The plaintiff also argues that the defendant's request for a psychiatric exam was a wrongful inquiry under the ADA. The defendant has moved for summary judgment, claiming that Law has failed to establish a prime facie case of discrimination; that its employment decision was based on Law's failure to complete the drug treatment program; that Law failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; and that the psychiatric exam was a business necessity unrelated to the defendant's decision to terminate. The plaintiff has also moved for partial summary judgment on the wrongful medical inquiry claim and the issue of "disability" under the ADA.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted where all of the evidence demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Pro, 56(c). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Once the moving party has satisfied this requirement, the nonmoving party must present evidence that there is a genuine issue of material fact. The non-moving party may not simply rest on the pleadings, but must go beyond the pleadings in presenting evidence of a dispute of fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632, 637 (3rd Cir. 1993).

B. Termination Claim

1. Summary Judgment under the ADA and PHRA

The decision whether to grant or deny summary judgment in an employment discrimination action under the ADA is governed by the Supreme Court's burden-shifting analysis in McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), recently clarified in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, 530 U.S. 133, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).*fn2 See McNemar v. Disney Store, Inc., 91 F.3d 610, 619 (3d Cir. 1996). Under this analysis, the plaintiff must first make out a prima facie case of discrimination. Once the plaintiff does so, the defendant must present a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the negative employment decision. In order to survive summary judgment, the plaintiff must then show that the reason presented by the defendant is pretextual, either by showing that the defendant's reason is "unworthy of credence," Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256, ...


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