Dishonest Response on an Initial Application Can Come Back to Haunt an Employee

by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Contact

In a non-precedential opinion, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a hospital’s firing of a security guard who had admitted that he was a recovering drug addict. Because that firing was based upon the fact that the employee previously had denied prior drug or alcohol addition/treatment, the court found that the hospital’s reason for the termination—the employee’s dishonest disclosure—was not a pretext for discrimination. Reilly v. Lehigh Valley Hospital, No. 12-2078, (3rd Cir. March 29, 2013).

Robert Reilly was employed by Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH) as a part-time security officer from August 2006 until May 2, 2008. During the application process, Reilly was asked to respond to the following two questions: (1) “Have you ever been recognized as or diagnosed with alcoholism or drug addiction?” and (2) “Have you ever been or are you now being treated for alcoholism or drug addiction?” Reilly answered “No” to both of the questions and left blank a question that asked for information on any such treatment. A handwritten note on the application says “denies drug/alcohol addiction.” The application form included a statement that “falsifying of this information could result in withdrawal of the employment offer or if subsequently discovered termination of employment.”

On April 5, 2008, Reilly was admitted to the emergency room of LVH to receive treatment for a work-related eye injury. During that visit, Reilly disclosed a history of narcotics use to the treating physician and admitted that he was a recovering addict. When an LVH employee sustains a possible work-related injury and is treated by LVH, the medical records routinely are furnished to the hospital’s Health Services department, which manages and administers workers’ compensation issues. Upon receiving Reilly’s records, Health Services informed LVH’s Human Resources department of Reilly’s statement regarding his addiction and recovery. Reilly was fired on May 2, 2008, for failure to disclose the information during the application process.

Reilly filed a lawsuit against LVH alleging disability discrimination. During a deposition in the case, Reilly testified that following a conviction for DUI in 1995, he attended approximately 40 hours at a drug and alcohol treatment center as part of an Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition program. He testified that he did not consider himself to have received addiction treatment at that point, because he continued to abuse drug and alcohol after that time. 

LVH’s motion for summary judgment in the case was granted by the district court, and Reilly appealed. The Third Circuit upheld the decision. In applying the now well-known McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, the Third Circuit found that Reilly was able to set forth a prima facie case of discrimination, and that LVH was able to proffer the required legitimate business reason for its action. The district court found—and the Third Circuit agreed—that Reilly failed to satisfy the third step by adducing sufficient evidence to show that LVH’s reason was simply a pretext for discrimination.

The court viewed the primary issue in the case as “whether the decision-maker at LVH could regard Reilly’s responses as dishonest.” According to the court: “The answer to that question is resoundingly, ‘yes.’” The evidence established that Reilly received 40 hours of addiction treatment and that he regularly attended and still attends Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. In spite of those facts, Reilly answered “no” to questions on the employment application asking whether he had ever been or currently was “recognized as,” “diagnosed with,” or “treated for” alcohol or drug addiction. Given that circumstance, Reilly is unable to prove that LVH’s proffered reason for his firing—dishonesty—was a pretext for discrimination.

This case is not a license to fire individuals simply because they are or have been in drug or alcohol rehabilitation. In fact, it is important to recognize that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an individual who is in recovery for drug or alcohol addiction may be considered to be protected under the Act. However, this case does point out the fact that language on an employment application clearly informing applicants that dishonest responses can lead to non-hire or even firing will be upheld by a court.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Contact
more
less

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.