Vickers v. Veterans Administration
An employee sued his supervisor and the Veteran’s Administration for discrimination by failing to providing a smoke-free work environment. The court found that the employee, who is hypersensitive to tobacco smoke, is “handicapped” under federal law because his sensitivity limits at least one of his major life activities, which is his capacity to work in an environment that is not completely smoke-free. The court dismissed the employee’s claim against his supervisor based on lack of evidence. The court also found that the claim against the federal agency failed because the agency had not discriminated against the employee in terms of work assignments, pay, or promotions as a result of complaining about the tobacco smoke or by filing the lawsuit. In fact, the court said that the agency had made reasonable efforts to accommodate the employee’s handicap, such as by getting a voluntary agreement from other employees not to smoke, moving the employee’s desk, installing vents and an air purifier, and offering the employee an outside maintenance job. The court noted that, at the time of the lawsuit, the agency had a policy that required supervisors to balance the rights of smokers and nonsmokers. As a result, the employee’s supervisor did not have the authority to completely prohibit smoking.