January 18, 2023
Source: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
The Justice Department announced today that it filed a complaint and proposed consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, to resolve allegations that Cumberland County, Tennessee violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability. Among other things, it requires them to make reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.
The lawsuit alleges that the County Sheriff’s Department discriminated against a correctional officer on the basis of his disability, opioid use disorder (OUD), by failing to make reasonable accommodations to permit his continued employment while taking prescribed medication for OUD. The Sheriff’s Department also constructively discharged him by forcing him to resign. The lawsuit also alleges that the Sheriff’s Department violated the ADA by preventing employees who are taking legally prescribed medications from having them present in their system while at work. This is the Justice Department’s first ADA settlement resolving claims of employment discrimination based on opioid use disorder.
“Employees with opioid use disorder or other disabilities should not face termination for taking lawfully prescribed medications needed to treat their disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department remains committed to ensuring equal employment opportunities for people with opioid use disorder and other disabilities.”
Under the terms of the consent decree, which must be approved by the Court, the County will implement policies and procedures regarding non-discrimination in employment, and train personnel on the requirements of Title I of the ADA. The County will also pay a total of $160,000 to the former correctional officer.
This matter is based on a referral from the Nashville Area Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which conducted the initial investigation.
For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.