Reilly v. Lehigh Valley Hospital, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 6364 (3d. Cir. 3/29/13)

Plaintiff's belief that he answered a pre-employment screening question truthfully failed to establish that his termination was a pretext for disability discrimination.

The plaintiff alleged that he was discriminated against on the basis of his disability after he received medical treatment for an alleged work-related injury. Specifically, when the plaintiff received treatment for his alleged work injury, he informed the treating physician that he has a history of narcotics use and is a recovering drug addict. Following the treatment, the clinical report was submitted to the hospital's health services department, and that department noted that the plaintiff answered "no" in his employee health information form as to whether he has "ever been recognized as or diagnosed with alcoholism or drug addiction." As a result of the plaintiff's admission, the hospital terminated his employment. During the plaintiff's deposition, he testified that he did not believe he was untruthful because, although he attends weekly alcoholics' anonymous and narcotics anonymous meetings, the only "treatment" he received was court ordered following a DUI arrest. In upholding the dismissal of the plaintiff's claims, the Third Circuit noted that the only evidence of pretext argued by the plaintiff was that "he answered truthfully with regards to whether he ever received treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse." In so holding, the Third Circuit found that the plaintiff's "belief" as to whether he answered the question truthfully was not the determinative factor because the "question is whether the decision maker at [the hospital] could regard [plaintiff's] responses as dishonest [and] [t]he answer to that question is resoundingly, 'yes.'" In particular, the court noted that the plaintiff admitted during his deposition testimony that he is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, but he, nonetheless, answered "no" to the question on his employment form.

Case Law Alert, 3rd Quarter 2013