SW Legal studies in Business

Problems Caused by Medicine Not a Disability

Appeals court held that the side effects of medicine used by an employee that caused a significant reduction in time worked per day, was not a disability that gave rise to a claim for disability discrimination when the employee was laid off due to low productivity.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Disability; Obesity; Medication; Side Effects

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Sulima worked for the Department of Defense. Because he was morbidly obese and suffered from sleep apnea, which is likely related to the obesity, his physician had him taking weight-loss medication. The medication caused gastrointestinal problems that required him to have to go to the restroom frequently—taking up as much as two hours time in an eight hour shift. His supervisor was unhappy with the amount of time he was missing from work and included him in a group of employees who were laid off due to a budget change. Sulima sued for disability discrimination, contending he was disabled as a result of his medication. The district court dismissed the complaint. Sulima appealed.


Affirmed. A non-permanent or temporary condition cannot be a substantial impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The side effects Sulima suffered from his medication did not constitute a disability within the meaning of the ADA. Under the ADA, the effects of a treatment can constitute a disability, even if the underlying condition is not itself disability, as long as the plaintiff can show that 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. The medication in this case was not permanent and was not the only option for treatment.


Sulima v. Tobyhanna Army Depot, ---F.3d--- (2010 WL 1427542, 3rd Cir., 2010)

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