The Justice Department Wednesday filed a complaint against a sheriff’s department in Cumberland County, Tenn., alleging it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when firing an officer with an opioid use disorder. Photo courtesy of West Virginia Attorney General's Office/Twitter
Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The Justice Department Wednesday filed a complaint against a sheriff's department in Cumberland County, Tenn., alleging it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when firing an officer with an opioid use disorder.
In court papers, the lawsuit contends the county did not make "reasonable accommodations" to assist the officer with the disorder. It also criticizes the sheriff's department for forcing the officer to resign.
The justice department asserted the sheriff's office should not have penalized the officer for having opioids in his system while at work, which came from a legal prescription.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Sheriff's Department violated the ADA by preventing employees who are taking legally prescribed medications from having them present in their system while at work.
The first section of the Americans with Disabilities Act "prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability."
The department also filed a consent decree that would see the case settled. The settlement, which still needs court approval, would see the former officer awarded $160,000 in damages and force the county to alter its employment practices and procedures.
If approved, this would mark the Justice Department's first settlement over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, related to opioid use disorder.
"Employees with opioid use disorder or other disabilities should not face termination for taking lawfully prescribed medications needed to treat their disabilities," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.
"The Justice Department remains committed to ensuring equal employment opportunities for people with opioid use disorder and other disabilities."