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Hospital Entitled to Rescind Job Offer Because of Applicant’s Disability Related Use of Pain Meds

Elena Sumler applied to the University of Colorado, Hospital Authority (Hospital) to be a sonographer. The job description was detailed in its expectations​. It was also clear that care in taking the best possible images and analysis of those images was essential. She was offered the position contingent upon an “inquiry into her medical condition.” In response to the inquiry, Sumler informed the Hospital that she had fibromyalgia and was taking four medications, including oxycodone and fentanyl to treat it. She also stated that she had no restrictions that would prevent her from performing the essential functions of her position. The Hospital’s occupational health provider concluded that the use of the narcotics could impact Sumler’s mental acuity. As a result, the Hospital rescinded its job offer. Sumler sued for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case and made the following determinations. The Hospital was legally permitted to conduct its medical inquiries into Sumler’s medical condition because it was related to the performance of her position and consistent with medical necessity. Accepting the employer’s definition of the position and what it would require to perform it, the court turned to whether Sumler could perform the essential functions of her position. The appellate court gave weight to the Hospital’s judgment that narcotic pain medications would impair mental acuity because the judgment was “job-related, uniformly enforced, and consistent with business necessity.” The Hospital prohibited all employees from working under the influence where it would impair their job performance. This decision may only be cited for its persuasive value.