For more information please call  800.727.2766


No ADA Violation In Termination of Alcoholic Employee

After receiving his third citation for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), a court ordered Clint Mueck to attend weekly substance abuse classes. Mueck worked as an operator at La Grange Acquisitions. To comply with the court's order, Mueck needed to leave early from his day shift and arrive late for his night shift. He found a coworker to cover the day shifts but struggled to find someone to cover his night shifts. All operators worked a schedule with seven days on and seven days off, alternating between day and night shifts. To help Mueck out, his supervisor reached out to other employees, but no one volunteered to cover the shifts. As a result, La Grange terminated Mueck’s employment.

Mueck sued La Grange for intentional discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the district court’s holding that Mueck was not disabled because he had short-term, impermanent impairments from binge drinking. The Fifth Circuit acknowledged for the first time that an impairment need not be "permanent or long-term" to qualify as a disability. Evidence provided by Mueck showed that the drinking binges impacted his ability to think, concentrate, and care for himself.

However, the circuit court did not find La Grange intentionally discriminated against or failed to accommodate Mueck. To establish intentional discrimination, Mueck had to show the court that La Grange used its explanation of his termination as a pretext for discrimination. Because the company had attempted to help Mueck cover the shifts and only fired him when that failed, Mueck could not establish pretext. As for the failure to accommodate claim, the court ruled Mueck had to notify the company that he had a disability and needed accommodation, particularly here where the disability was not obvious. La Grange reasonably viewed Mueck’s requests for time off as related to the legal consequences of his DWI.