In A.D.P. v. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co., the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the trial court erred in dismissing a lawsuit brought by an alcoholic who, despite her satisfactory job performance, was terminated after a random alcohol test revealed that she consumed alcohol.  2012 WL 5273469 (App. Div. Oct. 26, 2012). The random alcohol test was administered pursuant to an “after care contract” that ExxonMobil required the employee to sign after she voluntarily disclosed she was an alcoholic and completed a rehab program. The contract required recovering alcoholics to pledge total abstinence from alcohol and to submit to random alcohol tests for two years.

The Appellate Division found that these provisions constituted direct evidence of discrimination as they were imposed only upon alcoholics, demonstrating hostility toward members of the plaintiff’s class, and were the direct cause of the plaintiff’s termination. The Appellate Division ruled that summary judgment should not have been granted to ExxonMobil because: a) it could not show that the plaintiff was unable to perform her job duties adequately or was unfit for work; b) it could not justify the application of its after-care contract under the “business necessity” defense, because there was no proof that the mere use of alcohol by the plaintiff would impair her ability to perform her job duties efficiently and safely; and c) it could not justify application of the contract under the “direct threat/safety” defense, because ExxonMobil did not perform an individualized assessment to determine whether the plaintiff posed a safety risk.

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