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By June 1, 2010No Comments

The Federal Third Circuit Court has held that limitations on life activities caused solely by the side effects of medication do not give rise to a disability claim under the ADA. In Sulima v. Tobyhana Army Depot, the plaintiff claimed that he was forced to accept a voluntary layoff because his employer did not accommodate the side effects of medications he was taking to treat obesity and sleep apnea. The district court ruled that medication side effects may, under certain conditions, constitute a disabling condition under the ADA, but that the side effects experienced by the plaintiff did not rise to that level. The Circuit Court agreed. The plaintiff, who was morbidly obese and suffered from sleep apnea, was taking several medications related to those issues at the time of his layoff. The medication caused the plaintiff to need to use the restroom frequently for extended periods. The employer decided to transfer him, but had no other work available at the time. The plaintiff accepted the voluntary layoff in advance of layoffs scheduled for the following month. He did not present any evidence that his obesity or sleep apnea directly and substantially limited a life activity, and instead focused on the side effects of the medication. To prevail under this theory the plaintiff needed to show that: (1) the treatment is required “in the prudent opinion of the medical profession;” (2) the treatment is not just an attractive option; and (3) that the treatment is not required solely in anticipation of an impairment resulting from the plaintiff’s voluntary choices. The plaintiff could not meet this test because his doctor had discontinued the medications, thus refuting part (1) of the test that the treatment be required “in the prudent opinion of the medical profession.”

Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Shawe Rosenthal.