Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Testing employees for illegal drug use is one thing. But what about testing them for legal prescription drug use?
The latter concept has one Tennessee employer in hot water, battling two separate lawsuits in which employees claim they were forced to undergo unlawful drug tests that checked for various prescription medicines such as painkillers. The suits claim that the employer — Dura Automotive Systems Inc., an auto parts supplier — had no valid reason to order the tests and took adverse action against employees who tested positive for various legally prescribed drugs, including firing some who refused to stop taking the medications or couldn't work without them.
The most recent lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in federal court in the Middle District of Tennessee on Sept. 11. The suit alleges that the drug tests — initiated in 2007 — were unlawful medical inquiries under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC contends that Dura Automotive screened out persons with disabilities, failed to keep confidential the information obtained from the drug tests, and took unlawful adverse actions against at least 30 employees who tested positive for legally prescribed medications.
Am I missing something here? Did somebody forget to check with their employment discrimination attorney before putting this policy into place? I mean there were allegedly no safety concerns for the plaintiffs here who were tested and now suing.