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Disabled Under The ADA For Conditions Caused By Medication?

Is an employee considered disabled under the ADA for a condition caused by medication?  Well, like most legal issues, there is no simple yes or no answer to that question. 

In Sulima v. Tobyhanna Army Depot et al., No. 08-4684 (3d Cir. Apr. 12, 2010), the Third Circuit addressed when an employee may bring suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on conditions caused by medication. In the case, the plaintiff/employee needed more time than most employees for restroom breaks. He needed more time to use the bathroom because of weight loss medication.

The side effects from treatment and medication can constitute a disability under the three-prong test utilized by the Court in Sulima:

(1) the treatment is required "in the prudent judgment of the medical profession,"

(2) the treatment is not just an "attractive option," and

(3) that the treatment is not required solely in anticipation of an impairment resulting from the plaintiff's voluntary choices.

This test was first laid out by the Seventh Circuit in Christian v. St. Anthony Medical Center, Inc., 117 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir. 1997). It is now the test in the Third Circuit as well.

In this specific case, the court found that the plaintiff's medication was not "required in the prudent judgment of the medical profession" as evidenced by the fact that his doctor took him off the medication when learning of the side effects.

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