The lawsuit was filed under California's version of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Case number #109CV158423 was filed on Dec. 1 in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, in San Jose, California.
The lawsuit claims VNUS Medical Technologies, purchased and owned by Covidien, refused to hire a top-level executive after discovering that the executive is a recovering alcoholic. Instead, the lawsuit claims, VNUS/Covidien attempted to circumvent employment laws by forcing the executive to sign a consulting agreement with the company to avoid disclosure to the Board of Directors of the fact that the executive was a recovering alcoholic. Covidien is a company with revenue in excess of $10 billion in 2008, with 41,000 employees in 59 countries worldwide.
The ADA (and its California counterpart) provides protection for people with disabilities such as Alcoholism. The following are pertinent points of the law:
Alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disability covered by the ADA. This means that an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire or discipline a worker simply because he is an alcoholic. However, an employer can fire or discipline an alcoholic worker for failing to meet work-related performance and behavior standards imposed on all employees - even if the worker fails to meet these standards because of his drinking.
Illegal Drug Use. The ADA does not protect employees who currently use or are addicted to illegal drugs. These workers are not considered "disabled" within the meaning of the law, and therefore don't have the right to be free from discrimination or to receive a reasonable accommodation. However, the ADA does cover workers who are no longer using drugs and have successfully completed (or are currently participating in) a supervised drug rehabilitation program.
Use of Legal Drugs. If an employee is taking prescription medication or over-the-counter drugs to treat a disability, you may have to accommodate that employee's use of drugs and the side effects that the drugs have on the employee. However, you are not required to accommodate legal drug use if you cannot find a reasonable accommodation.
San Jose employment attorney, Charles Roe, who represents the Plaintiff, stated that "the ADA prohibits discrimination based solely upon an individual's disability and was enacted to protect employees or potential employees right not to be subjected to harmful and unfounded stereotypes based upon a perceived or actual disability." Furthermore, he goes on to state that "compelling evidence exists that Covidien/VNUS refused to hire my client as an employee based solely on the discovery that he was a recovering alcoholic. We will demonstrate and thus vigorously enforce the ADA's prohibition of an employer who unfairly excludes a person from jobs that they could otherwise perform, based solely on the fact of their disability."
For more information about the case brought against Covidien, contact Samuelson, Wilson & Roe. Visit www.eeoc.gov for further information regarding EEOC and disability claims.