Summary judgment granted in case of former employee claiming termination due to alcoholism

Jon Campisi Nov. 18, 2011, 11:04am

A Delaware County, Pa. school specializing in rehabilitative services for delinquent youngsters that was being sued by a former employee who alleged the school’s failure to accommodate his alcoholism, and subsequent firing of him because of the disease, was a violation of his rights, has been granted summary judgment by a federal judge.

Judge John R. Padova, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted the Glen Mills School’s motion for summary judgment Nov. 15 in a case initiated by former school employee Roland Kennedy, who worked for Glen Mills for 29 years before his April 2009 firing.

Kennedy, a resident of the State of Delaware, had been fired after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol. After drinking at a bar one night, Kennedy drove a school van into a parked car. Kennedy had admitted to a supervisor that he had driven the van, which was school property, to a bar to consume alcohol.

Kennedy never mentioned his alcoholism during his termination meeting.

Following his DUI conviction, Kennedy gave up drinking, and participated in a court-ordered program that included attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and undergoing alcohol tests, which he subsequently passed.

Prior to the DUI incident, Kennedy had never been disciplined by Glen Mills for any reason, and nobody at the school was aware that Kennedy had had a drinking problem.

“Plaintiff was never intoxicated at work at Glen Mills, never brought alcohol onto the Glen Mills campus, and never talked to anyone to Glen Mills about having an alcohol problem,” the judge’s ruling states, citing information found in the complaint, which had been filed in December 2010.

Nevertheless, Kennedy went on to claim that he was fired specifically because of his alcoholism, an act he alleged was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ruling states that Glen Mills filed an instant motion for summary judgment seeking an entry of judgment in its favor on both claims contained in the complaint, the unlawful termination claim and the claim of failure to accommodate Kennedy’s alcoholism.

Kennedy, however, never filed any response to the motion, according to the ruling.

The judge’s ruling states that in order to succeed on a claim that the plaintiff was fired in violation of the ADA and that the defendant failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation for his disability, the plaintiff would have the burden of establishing that he was, in fact, disabled as defined by the ADA.

The defendant had argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because there was no record of evidence that Kennedy was disabled as defined by the ADA at the time of his firing.

“The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffers from alcoholism, yet Plaintiff has not identified a single life activity that has been limited, substantially or otherwise, due to this condition,” the ruling states. “To the contrary, the evidence is that Plaintiff held down two full time jobs for over a decade prior to the accident and that he was never intoxicated at either job.

“We conclude, accordingly, that there is no evidence on the record before us that Plaintiff had a disability as defined by the ADA,” the ruling continues. “Because Plaintiff has failed to ‘respond with a factual showing sufficient to establish’ at trial that he is disabled under the ADA, we further conclude that Defendant is entitled to the entry of judgment as a matter of law in its favor on both of Plaintiff’s claims.”

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