Fired pharmacist sues Wal-Mart over job policy

November 1, 2013

A Washington State pharmacist has filed suit against Wal-Mart, claiming the giant retailer hired him with knowledge of his past drug addiction and license suspension, then later fired him because of that same history.

A Washington State pharmacist has filed suit against Wal-Mart, claiming the giant retailer hired him with knowledge of his past drug addiction and license suspension, then later fired him because of that same history.

In 2002, six years after James H. Bryan received his pharmacy license, he said he became addicted to prescription drugs and his license was suspended, according to a lawsuit filed in October in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash.

After successfully completing a rehabilitation program for pharmacists, in 2007 Bryan was hired by Wal-Mart, initially as a pharmacy intern and later as a staff pharmacist at one of its central Washington locations. He worked for Wal-Mart for 4 years, according to the lawsuit.

Then, in 2011, Wal-Mart adopted a policy making ineligible for employment any pharmacist disciplined by a state board of pharmacy. Bryan was subsequently fired, although his lawsuit claims the chain retailer was aware of his drug addiction and license suspension before he was hired.

“This policy discriminates against disabled employees because it screens out or tends to screen out qualified individuals with disabilities, i.e., who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs, and/or have a record of chemical or alcohol dependency, and who have successfully participated in a supervised rehabilitation program,” the complaint states.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson, Randy Hargrove, told the website Law360.com that the policy was created to ensure customer safety. “Pharmacists whose record with the state pharmacy board showed disciplinary action had been taken against them for inappropriate conduct, such as theft or diversion of drugs, addiction to and abuse of prescription drugs or other activities which may have put patients at risk, were no longer eligible to work for us," Hargrove said. "Mr. Bryan was a pharmacist terminated under this program."

Last month, Bryan filed the lawsuit that asserts Wal-Mart’s employment policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against disabled employees and potential employees who have recovered from drug, alcohol, or chemical dependency problems.

“Wal-Mart’s policy and practice [have] deprived qualified individuals with disabilities of employment and employment opportunities, which has resulted in the loss of past and future wages and other job benefits," the lawsuit states. "Wal-Mart has displayed a reckless disregard and/or callous disregard for the federally protected rights of the class."