Case Result: Mental Health Diagnosis Not Necessarily Proof of Impairment for Nurse with PTSD Who Was Discriminated by Employer

Professional:
Registered Nurse

Primary issue:
Client RN was subject to an investigation from the Department of Health (DOH) for possible impairment. This stemmed from an incident that occurred at the RN’s job; the RN had asked the employer to be placed on “on call,” as opposed to being required to go to work, so that the RN could try to get more sleep. The employer refused. It was worth noting that, from the employer’s perspective, this would have been the last callout the RN had available, despite the fact that the employer wrongfully counted other instances where the client RN had excused absences as callouts.

When the RN arrived at work, the employer accused the RN of being impaired and insisted that the RN must have taken Xanax by accident. The employer knew that client had a Xanax prescription because the RN had PTSD as a result of an incident that occurred while at work. Instead of asking for a drug test, the employer reported the RN to IPN. Our client denied having taken Xanax and simply pointed to sleep deprivation. When the RN refused IPN, the DOH got involved and sent the RN a letter of investigation, with accusations of impairment. The DOH further decided to refer the RN to an evaluation through an order compelling examination (OCE) to resolve the matter.

Argument:
Our licensing attorneys provided a response denying the accusations. We provided information to the evaluator to support our defense. We were able to demonstrate that the employer had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by reporting the RN. We argued that the employer was aware of the PTSD diagnosis and the Xanax prescription but discriminated against the RN on this very basis and reported the RN to IPN for it. We further contended that a mental health diagnosis is not necessarily proof of impairment.

Result:
The case was presented to the Probable Cause Panel, which dismissed the case without any finding of probable cause. The client can now practice without any issue, and the case will remain confidential.

Areas of Law:
Healthcare Licensing
Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN)
Professional Licensing Defense
Substance Abuse & Impaired Practitioners

Disclaimer:
This information is a sample of our past results. Prospective clients may not obtain the same or similar results. Every case is different and each case must be evaluated and handled on its own merits. The circumstances of your case may differ from the results provided. The information provided has not been reviewed or approved by the State Bar.

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Case Lawyers

Sarasota Office
6841 Energy Court
Sarasota, FL 34240
Phone: (941) 893-3449

Lauren A. Leikam

Senior Attorney

Sarasota Office
6841 Energy Court
Sarasota, FL 34240
Phone: (941) 893-3449

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