March 30, 2017

Court Holds That Pharmacist With Fear of Needles Has No Claim Under the ADA

In Stevens v Rite Aid, the plaintiff was employed by Rite Aid as a pharmacist.  When Rite Aid introduced a program to provide immunization shots to customers, it changed the pharmacist’s job description to require immunization certification and added immunizations to the list of essential job functions.  Plaintiff suffered from trypanophobia – fear of needles – and provided a physician’s note stating that he could not safely administer immunization by injection because he would likely begin sweating profusely, suffer low blood pressure, and faint.  Rite Aid terminated plaintiff’s employment, and he sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  After a jury awarded plaintiff $2.6 million in damages, on March 21, 2017, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion holding that giving immunizations was an essential job function.  Because plaintiff could not perform the essential function either with or without an accommodation, he had no claim under the ADA.  The court noted that hiring a nurse to give the immunizations for plaintiff, or requiring other pharmacists to handle them were not accommodations, but exemptions, which the ADA does not require.