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Subject: Re: Is it worth it?
To: "M.Rita Kreuter"
From: Stanton Peele
Date: Tue, 23 May 2000 09:12:48 -0400

Dear Rita:

     Very bold, very innovative. I am an attorney in New York. So you might consider me as your attorney, although you might want someone who lives in New York. Can you spare $10,000 over the next two years?

     Yes, you should go armed with an independent evaluation from someone certified by the state who is not a nut -- let me give you the phone number of someone in NY City you can consult -- if he is not in a position to do this, he can suggest someone: Andrew Tatarsky: 212-633-8157 or email: atatarsky@aol.com

     It is risky, but you are exactly right -- your previous settlement allowed them to continue with an immoral policy. It is wrong. And you should prevail -- but it can be painful. I can't recomend to anyone to undergo this duress, but I can point out that the system persists which is painful to you, your prior diagnosis persists which is painful to you, and being willing to change careers -- even if to a medical specialty where they will track you -- is a plus. I would get the materials for a license for being a physician's assistant and peruse them prior to taking any steps to see what you're up and against.

     However, IF they declare relapse for someone who admits to having a beer or two during a game -- this can be shown to violate DSM-IV criteria as continuing abuse or relapse or partial relapse. I think it can be done. But clear your mind and feel good about yourself and your course of action -- the only thing to fear is fear itself and what emotional costs you might experience.

     Stanton

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"M.Rita Kreuter" wrote:

Dear Dr. Peele --

     I have long been an admirer of your views and of your accomplishments. Some time back I sent you an e-mail under my usual Net pseudonym of "Railroad Rita", regarding my federal lawsuit against my NYS employer, for requiring me (and other "FTA positive" employees) to undergo 9 months of outpatient 12-step treatment, including a concurrent requirement of 5 AA/NA meetings weekly, without displaying any symptoms of alcohol or drug dependency. I can review the essentials of that case for you at your request. I settled out of court, against my true wishes, for personal reasons which I won't get into now. Suffice to say I don't feel I had the best legal representation for the issues I wished to address. The settlement involved a gag order, and prevents me from taking any further action against parties named in the suit, for any activities/events named in the suit occurring between 10/8/97 and 5/24/98.

     Well and good -- I do not attend any 12-step groups or other programs, do not have any d/a problems, and have maintained a flawless work record since my return to service on 5/24/98 (BTW I had an excellent record up to that point as well). I've also had to undergo private therapy to deal with the anguish caused by the entire sordid episode, including the settlement.

     However, it has recently come to my attention that employees of my company, who have been mandated to our EAP "treatment" program any time in the last 10 years following an "FTA positive" d/a test (mind you, as per company drug/alcohol policy, delineated in our collective bargaining agreement, ALL "positive" employees must undergo such "treatment") are now being entrapped and labeled as "relapsers" (and forced into further unnecessary "counseling") by doctors employed by the company, staffing the company clinics where employees are required to undergo periodic medical examinations.

     The scenario is as follows: following the ordinary medical exam (which includes a Breathalyzer and urinalysis, which in all such cases are 100% negative) the employee is sent for a summarizing interview with the clinic doctor. The doctor (who is fully aware via records of the employee's past mandated participation in the 9-month EAP tx program) asks the employee how everything is going at work, at home, etc., appearing to be friendly and concerned. Somewhere during an extensive conversation the Dr. manages to "casually" slip in a question to the effect of "Do you ever have, say, a beer or two while watching football with your buddies?" or some such. Based SOLELY on an affirmative answer to seemingly healthy, responsible off-duty drinking behavior, the employee is labeled as "possible relapse into alcoholism", declared therefore "unfit for duty", placed on involuntary sick leave, and referred to the EAP for whatever "counseling" the EAP deems necessary. As there has been no "positive" body fluid test involved, the "counseling" required is usually a once-a-week thing for 8 or 10 weeks at some facility paid by the company (rather than the hideous 9-month full torture), and the employee is allowed to resume work in 3 or 4 weeks provided he/she agrees to the "counseling" and produces attendance slips.

     The union (which has totally sold us out on this and many other issues) has taken the position that employees should LIE when questioned by the company doctor, and say they never drink so much as a drop of alcohol, ever.

     I, for one, am outraged at this acquiescence to unethical, creepy behavior that frankly skirts the line of malpractice. I personally know two employees with good records who were taken out of service under this scheme, and who suffered both financial hardship and extreme emotional stress. The union's position is not only cowardly as a preventive strategy, but pretty much leaves the employees who ARE ensnared in this manner in the lurch, and tacitly blames them -- "If you hadn't been so dumb as to tell this doctor that you have a glass of wine with dinner on your day off, you wouldn't be in this position."

     I am scheduled for my next medical in October. I am seriously considering "martyring" myself to take action, i.e. making a point to let the Dr. know that I drink moderately and safely, and that I have no problems on the job or off. Then if she takes me out of service and labels me "unfit for duty", I will sue. Part of why I have the urge to do this is that my spiritual/religious background demands that I take action against unethical or evil behavior, and another part is that I have what psychological-minded folks would call "unfinished business", i.e. I was never able, in my federal suit, to address the issue of misdiagnosis as "addict/alcoholic", and have been suffering ever since. Besides, I have almost 20 years with the company, and am eligible to retire in another 6 years, although I won't be old enough to collect a pension; my tentative plans are to pursue a second career in a medical field such as Physician's Assistant. I know (and you have confirmed on your website) that licensing boards ask about d/a treatment history, and if I admit I had 9 months of addiction tx, but it was all unnecessary B.S., I'd certainly have much more credibility if I can show I've taken successful action against those who perpetrated such a scam.

     I have no support from anyone re my idea to take a stand on this, not from co-workers, not from supervisors, not from the union. They genuinely like me, but they think I'm nuts, and that I have zero chance of winning.

     I have informed my therapist that I intend to do this, and his advice is to get an independent evaluation on record from someone recognized federally as a "Substance Abuse Professional" (are you familiar with FTA regs and designations?), declaring that I show no sign of an alcohol or drug disorder. From there, I must get good legal assistance.

     My question to you is as an attorney -- do you think my course of action is advisable? I must tell you, I have tried to fight our EAP before, and consulted with a labor attorney (can give you details if interested -- it was a totally separate issue from the First Amendment thing) who was less than sympathetic to the idea of misdiagnosis and malpractice in d/a treatment. You are the only attorney I know of who will even think about this issue. I would be willing to engage your services though it might be a serious financial hardship. OTOH, if my chances of sucessfully fighting this system, evil as it is, are slim to none, then my co-workers would be right -- I'd be nuts to sacrifice myself.

     Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. Please reply privately, when you can, to this addy, with a CC to Kreutercharm@webtv.net.

Sincerely,
M.R. Kreuter