South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Alcoholism Not Necessarily an Impairment for Disability Purposes
Description Appeals court held that a company fired an employee for drinking on the job in violation of company rules. While the employee was an alcoholic, his work performance was good, so he was not dismissed because of his condition.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Disability; Impairment; Alcoholism
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Sullivan worked successfully in a number of retail sales positions for more than a decade. During that time he battled alcoholism with varying degrees of success. Neiman Marcus fired him after he worked there for half a year. A subordinate employee complained about Sullivan being drunk at work and being abusive when he was drinking. The supervisor searched Sullivan’s desk and found an empty bottle of vodka. The company decided to fire Sullivan, but held off informing him, as he reported that was taking leave for alcohol treatment. When his treatment ended, he was fired for violating company rules regarding alcohol use on the job. He sued. The district court held for the employer; Sullivan appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. Sullivan’s alcoholism did not amount to an actual impairment of his ability to work, so he was not disabled. He had worked successfully for several employers for more than a decade despite his problem. The termination from the job was for violating company rules. He was not fired because of an impairment.

Citation Sullivan v. Neiman Marcus Group, 358 F.3d 110 (1st Cir., 2004)

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