An employee’s request to provide medical documentation excusing a positive drug test could trigger an employer’s obligations to engage in the interactive process, according to a recent decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Jodi Hammel v. SOAR Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14361 (E.D.Pa. Feb. 6, 2015).

In August 2013, Jodi Hammel was terminated from her position as an administrative assistant shortly after SOAR Corp. learned Hammel had failed her pre-employment drug test.  (Though Hammel had taken a drug test as part of the Company’s hiring process, she was permitted to begin work before SOAR received the test results).  After learning of her positive test result, Hammel claims she informed a Company representative that she was taking pain medication for a degenerative disc disease and sciatica, and offered to provide medical documentation in support of her explanation.  Shortly thereafter, Hammel provided three doctors’ notes substantiating her medical condition and confirming her use of prescription medication.  Two days later, the Company terminated Hammel, purportedly because it learned Hammel had falsified her work history and employment references.

Hammel filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging SOAR violated the ADA by (among other claims) failing to accommodate her disability.  The Court denied SOAR’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a jury could have interpreted Plaintiff’s request to provide medical documentation excusing her drug test as a request for accommodation, thereby triggering SOAR’s legal obligation to engage in the interactive process.  Further, the Court found the Company’s failure to “take initiative” in response to Hammel’s request a possible sign of bad-faith.