Firing Of Pharmacist With Trypanophobia Upheld: He Could Not Perform Essential Job Function

An interesting new case involving a pharmacist with trypanophobia is in the news today.

Seems that the federal appeals court in NYC was faced with an appeal by a major pharmacy chain from a whopping verdict of almost $2 million in favor of a pharmacist who had worked for it and its predecessors for 34 years – but was fired for refusing to administer immunization injections to customers in violation of company policy.

Why did he refuse?

He suffered from trypanophobia – that is, a fear of needles so great that, as his doctor said, “[h]e would become diaphoretic, hypotensive and probably faint. Vagal response.”

That is, it would cause him to experience lightheadedness, paleness, and a feeling that he might faint.  His doctor advised that he could not “safely administer an injection, since the likelihood that he would faint would be ‘unsafe for the patient and [him].’”

Is this a disability? 

May be.

Then Why Did He Lose On Appeal?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) provides that an employer must reasonably accommodate a person with a disability if the person can the perform the essential duties of the job with or without accommodations if the accommodation is not unduly burdensome.


In this case, the Court found that administering immunization injections was an essential job requirement of the pharmacist.

But What About An Accommodation?

The pharmacist posited four possible accommodations, but the Court said that none of them enabled him to perform that essential functions of his job – administering immunization injections.

The Court stated that “It is important to bear in mind that the issue is whether a reasonable accommodation would have enabled him to perform that essential function, not whether, as some of [his] arguments appear to suggest, he could perform his other duties as a pharmacist.  ‘A reasonable accommodation can never involve the elimination of an essential function of a job.’ (citation omitted).”

Harsh result it appears.  But seemingly required by the ADA.


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 129 other subscribers

Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]