Simply Referring To Officer Applicant As “Drunk” Does Not Invoke ADA

H. Timothy Kreger applied to become a police officer with the Borough of Baldwin, Pennsylvania. Part of the testing process consisted of an interview with the Borough’s Civil Service Commission. Kreger was ranked second among all applicants, but was not hired even though he had prior experience as a police officer.

Kreger brought a lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the Borough regarded him as suffering from alcoholism, a disability protected by the ADA. Kreger cited the fact that the chairman of the Commission made a disparaging comment about Kreger being a “drunk.”

A federal court rejected Kreger’s claim. The Court observed that whether an alleged impairment or disabling condition is regarded as being a disability “requires that the employer perceive not just that the plaintiff has the condition or impairment, but that it substantially limits a major life activity.” The Court found there to be a lack of evidence that the Borough perceived Kreger as suffering from an alcohol-related impairment that substantially limited any life activities, let alone major ones.

The Court held that “the mere fact that the Chairman may have referred to Kreger as a ‘drunk’ and that the Chief of Police and some Borough Council members heard that remark, does not remotely suggest that the Borough perceived that condition as substantially limiting a major life activity. Indeed, the Borough was aware that Kreger had worked as a police officer since 1990 and passed the physical agility tests, and there’s nothing on the record from which the jury might infer that, despite his uninterrupted work history, the Borough nevertheless perceived Kreger as substantially unable to perform any major life activities because he may have been, at one time, a ‘drunk.’”

The Court did allow one claim of Kreger’s to go to trial – the allegation that he was not hired because of a congenital disfigurement of his left hand.

Kreger v. Baldwin Borough, 2006 WL 456249 (W.D.Pa. 2006).

This article appears in the April 2006 issue