A federal district court in the middle district of Pennsylvania denied a motion to dismiss and ADA claim by an opiate dependent nurse who was clean but participating in a methadone program to avoid relapse. The Methadone program required frequent opioid testing to insure compliance with the program. The Pennsylvania Board of Nursing had a secret policy prohibiting the licensing of any nurse on Methadone.
The Court, in Melinda Lamberson Reynolds v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania , No. 3:09 cv 1492 held that the immunity provisions of the 11th Amendment to the United States Constitution did not render Pennsylvania immune from liability under Title II of the ADA, which provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity,or be subjected to discrimination by such entity.” Ms. Reynolds claimed that she had been deprived or denied the benefits of a state licensing program and the services of a state agency through the policy of preventing opioid addicts from utilizing Methadone maintenance.
Ms. Reynolds cannot work as a nurse unless she has a license and the nursing board will not provide her a license because of a policy that she claims is discriminatory under the ADA. Pennsylvania argued that Congress did not specifically develop a legislative record of discrimination in issuing and suspending professional licenses in its expression of intent to abrogate state immunity under the 11th Amendment. The Court, however, found that the Congress had identified a “wide swath” of state discrimination that it sought to remedy. The Court also rejected the State claim that it was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity because it was the formulation of the secret policy complained of, not the application of the policy that was the gist of the complaint.