for fashioning an appropriate treatment program for alcoholic employees.
Based upon the implementing regulations, the Whitlock court described an agency's affirmative action responsibilities in terms of the reasonable accommodation requirement. See Whitlock, 598 F. Supp. at 130. As discussed, supra, the Court finds that the agency acted within the guidelines espoused by the Court in Whitlock. Placing responsibility for an employee's particular treatment program upon the agency would extend the reasonable accommodation requirement to a point beyond the agency's expertise, and would also absolve the employee of responsibility for his or her future. Neither of these options is desirable, nor justifiable in light of the case precedent.
The Whitlock court acknowledged the limitations of agency administrative and supervisory personnel. For example, the Court explained that
supervisors are instructed not to raise directly the possibility of a drug or alcohol problem . . . . Rather, it is contemplated that supervisors will make referrals to trained counselors within the agency or on contract to the agency. . . .
Whitlock, 598 F. Supp. at 132. Although the Court opined that "this specialization and diffusion of responsibility may impede dealing with alcoholic employees," id. at 138, the Court nowhere suggests that supervisory personnel should have primary responsibility for prescribing an appropriate course of treatment for the employee. The agency is responsible for providing appropriate counseling to the employee in the first instance. However, the employee must actively participate in the counseling process and must display a willingness to follow the recommendations of the trained professionals. Cf. Whitlock, 598 F. Supp. at 129 ("All programs require continuous counseling after the initial detoxification, and of course such counseling can only work if the patient is motivated to seek it and continue it, having accepted that he has an alcoholism problem."). Then, the employee, counselor and the agency can together devise a program for the rehabilitation of the particular employee consistent with the agency's constraints.
An agency may require the employee to meet with his counselors, and to provide the agency with a recommended treatment program for the agency's review. See, e.g., LeMere v. Burnley, 683 F. Supp. at 277 (in exchange for three months' leave without pay, employee must first submit an outline of a treatment program recommended by her physician; the program would then be subject to approval of the agency). The agency in this case followed this course of action, making available counselors such as Dr. Wilcox and Terri York. These counselors, in turn, recommended other professionals to the Plaintiff. Although Plaintiff received numerous suggestions from these advisors, he did not implement the long-term proposals which they recommended.
The Court does not expect an alcoholic in crisis to be in a position to plot out his or her own treatment plan alone. Courts recognize that alcoholism often destroys a person's ability to take control. Cf. McElrath v. Kemp, 714 F. Supp. at 25 ("a Grade-5 clerk suffering from chronic alcoholism and suddenly without a job[,] was too confused and insufficiently versed in the procedural niceties of the Rehabilitation Act to comply with the administrative requirements"). However, Plaintiff's argument ignores that he had access to counselors throughout his crises, and was not forced to rely on his own devices in putting together a treatment program. Plaintiff's argument also asks the Court to assume that Plaintiff was in one continuous crisis, with no period of clarity sufficient to reflect upon his own well-being. The record belies this underlying premise. Plaintiff did recover from his alcoholism for periods sufficient to obtain treatment plans. In fact, with the help of the NIH program, Plaintiff submitted a proposal to Ms. Twardowski after his termination was proposed. The fact that Plaintiff did not follow through with the proposed treatment is not the fault of the agency.
This case is one of the most heart-rending this Court has encountered in 21 years on the bench. The Plaintiff is to be commended for his hard-fought efforts to stay sober. While the task of sobriety is not an easy one, the Court is convinced that the Plaintiff has the fortitude to prevail over adversity and the skills to make a great contribution in his chosen field of endeavor. The Court wishes to commend counsel for their professionalism and sensitivity in handling the case. In the opinion of this Court, Mr. Ridley's efforts to assist his client in obtaining treatment and legal representation epitomizes the very best type of advocacy in the legal profession, and should make all lawyers proud.
On the basis of the record herein, the applicable law, and the arguments of counsel, and for the reasons expressed in the foregoing Opinion, the Court finds that the Defendant USIA did reasonably accommodate Plaintiff's handicapping condition and did meet its responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Accordingly, the Court shall issue judgment for the Defendant. An Order of even date herewith shall accompany the foregoing Opinion.
CHARLES R. RICHEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ORDER - December 9, 1991, Filed
Upon consideration of the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, the Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, the record herein, the arguments of the parties, and upon agreement of the parties to withdraw their respective Motions and to submit the case for a decision on the merits, it is, by this Court, this 9th day of December, 1991,
ORDERED that, for the reasons expressed in the Court's Opinion of even date herewith, the Court shall enter judgment for the Defendant; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the above-captioned case shall be, and hereby is, DISMISSED from the dockets of this Court.
CHARLES R. RICHEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE