Judge Clears Drug Treatment Center in Counselor's Firing

October 3, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has rejected claims by a Wisconsin drug counselor and nurse that she was fired so she couldn't get health and disability benefits instead of for mishandling prescription drugs.

Magistrate Judge Patricia Gorence of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin ruled that Quality Addiction Management, a drug treatment facility, had a legitimate reason to fire plaintiff Belva Zocher-Burke in October 2005.

Gorence found that the employer discharged Zocher-Burke a month after she gave a co-worker suffering severe headaches   propoxyphene – a prescription drug. The colleague had a chemical dependency history, according to the court.

Gorence noted in her ruling that Quality Addiction had a provision in its employee handbook that prohibited employees from selling, possessing, transferring, or offering to buy or sell drugs.

Zocher-Burke sued the employer, alleging her discharge violated Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which bars employers from interfering with employees’ benefits rights.

Zocher-Burke contended Quality Addiction’s true reason for firing her was to prevent her from obtaining health and disability benefits for lung cancer, Gorence said.

The ruling in Zocher-Burke v. Quality Addiction Management Inc.,   E.D. Wis., No. 06-C-693, 9/27/07 is  here .