WASHINGTON – A federal district judge in Maryland dismissed a Calvert County addiction counselor’s claim that her employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by forcing her to resign because of her marijuana addiction.
Freda Overstreet said she is a recovering marijuana addict who has been clean since 1980. But Overstreet said she was forced from her job at the Calvert County Substance Abuse Services after rumors began circulating that she had been seen drinking and smoking marijuana at a drug counseling conference.
Despite a record of exemplary performance reviews, Overstreet said she was fired after that July 1996 weekend counseling training program in Salisbury. Her job was restored a month later at a grievance hearing, when Dr. David L. Rogers of the Calvert County Health Department ruled Overstreet was wrongfully fired. Rogers said there was no evidence that Overstreet’s performance had faltered and that allegations of substance abuse, even if true, did not reflect negatively on the program.
Rogers declined to comment on the case Tuesday.
Overstreet returned to her job, but claimed her caseload was significantly reduced, her supervisors stopped talking to her and co-workers ostracized her, so she resigned in November 1996.
She later sued the county and state health departments as well as the county commissioners for violations of the ADA, claiming she was compelled to quit because of an intolerable work environment.
The county and state health departments were later dropped from the suit and U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake last week dismissed Overstreet’s claim against the commissioners. Blake said Overstreet had not proved that the situation was so bad that she was forced from her job.
“As the Fourth Circuit has put it, `dissatisfaction with work assignments, a feeling of being unfairly criticized, or difficult or unpleasant working conditions are not so intolerable as to compel a reasonable person to resign,'” Blake wrote.
Blake said Overstreet did not present any evidence that her addiction was a disability under the ADA, but claimed instead that her employer “regarded” her as being disabled. The judge said she did not need to address the question of whether or not Overstreet was disabled under the ADA, however, since Overstreet could not show she had been forced out of the job.
Calls to the county commissioners and the Calvert County Attorney were not returned Tuesday. Neither Overstreet nor her attorney could be reached for comment.