Are you afraid of needles?  A lot of Americans are. Trypanophobia, or the fear of needles, is the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It is a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognized phobia affecting approximately 50 million Americans, making it a top-ten American fear. 

But what happens when your job requires you to give shots to customers?  There are two recent cases that help us figure that out.

Christopher Stevens, a Rite Aid pharmacist with Trypanophobia, was terminated after he said he was unable to give injections to customers due to the phobia. A jury concluded that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required Rite Aid to accommodate his phobia by relieving him of the duty when providing shots was needed. The Second Circuit Court disagreed. The Second Circuit found that although the pharmacist had worked for over 30 years without having to perform this duty, Rite Aid had the right to add new essential job functions, which it did in a revised job description.  The Court found that administering immunization injections was an essential function of a pharmacist’s job, in large part based on the job description, which specifically listed this duty under “essential duties and responsibilities.” (See Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp., 851 F.3d 224 (2d Cir. 2017))

That’s a lot different from the case of Pharmacist Noel.  William Noel was working as a Walmart pharmacist when a new policy came out that required all Walmart pharmacists to give shots.  Noel was initially granted a written exemption from this new Walmart requirement. Later, Walmart changed its mind and revoked the exemption, thereby constructively discharging pharmacist Noel. Unfortunately for Walmart, Noel’s job description never was altered to indicate that administering injections was an essential function of his job.  The Second Circuit Court sided with pharmacist Noel in this case and found that Walmart wrongfully discharged Noel.  The Court explained the difference in this case from the earlier Stevens case by explaining: “In Stevens, it was undisputed that Rite Aid changed the job description for pharmacists to include immunizations as an essential duty of the position,” said the Second Circuit. “Here, however, Noel specifically alleges that his job description had not yet changed as of the time of his constructive discharge.” (See Noel v. Wal-Mart Stores, East LP, 2d Cir., No. 18-cv-1139 (March 11, 2019))

These two cases show how important job descriptions are.  Every position you have should have a current and updated job description.  If you need help updating yours, NAE can help.  We have about 500 job descriptions in our Member Portal that will help get you started.  If you have a job that isn’t included in that resource bank, then we can help you create a new one.