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No Accommodation For Pharmacist’s Fear of Needles

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that Rite Aid pharmacy was not required to accommodate its pharmacist’s fear of needles.

Christopher Stevens worked as a Rite Aid pharmacist for 34 years. A few years ago, Rite Aid decided that all pharmacists had to give immunizations to customers. Mr. Stevens had a severe fear of needles and so he obtained a note from his doctor explaining that he would suffer from lightheadedness, paleness and might faint. Rite Aid did engage in an interactive process in an attempt to accommodate him. However, Mr. Stevens’ doctor stated that there was no accommodation. Rite Aid terminated his employment because it believed his phobia was not protected by the ADA and giving vaccinations was an essential function of his position.

Mr. Stevens prevailed at trial. However, the Second Circuit overruled that verdict. In looking at Rite Aid’s essential function argument, the evidence was clear that Rite Aid had implemented a company-wide requirement that pharmacists perform immunizations and that the job description had been revised to include the requirement as an essential function of the job. Furthermore, Mr. Stevens could not show that he could perform this function with a reasonable accommodation. The only accommodations pointed to by Mr. Stevens at trial were an unproven medical treatment (which the court dismissed as unreasonable), and transfer to another position (which Mr. Stevens had declined).