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Alcoholism and Disability Law

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Jan 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Alcoholism is a disability under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the NJ Law Against Discrimination.  Cases in which plaintiffs have been successful on an alcoholism-related disability theory are hard to find, however.

A.D.P. v. ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co., approved for publication on October 26, 2012, is an exception. 

The opinion is lengthy and not easy to summarize without boring you, our esteemed reader, to tears.  That we do not wish to do.  Suffice it to say that ExxonMobil's policy on alcoholism treated affected employees harshly.  In fact, the appeal was decided on the theory that the plaintifff had produced sufficient direct evidence of discrimination that the burden of persuasion shifted to the employer under a “Price Waterhouse” theory.  If you don't know what that means, don't worry.  It really just means that you're not an employment lawyer.  It's enough for you to know that most employment cases are decided under a different standard – the “McDonnell Douglas” theory – because employees seldom have access to direct evidence of discrimination.  Thus, they must fall back on indirect evidence and shifting burdens of proof.  (Feeling sleepy yet?)

Anyway, if you are an employment lawyer, or a business lawyer responsible for drafting personnel policies, you will want to read this opinion.  It's a good summary of the law, and it is mandatory reading when drafting or reviewing disability policies dealing with substance abuse in New Jersey.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...


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