Drug-testing employees is supposed to save you headaches, not cause them.
But one automotive parts company will pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against it under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging the firm took its drug-testing policy too far.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dura Automotive Systems tested all the employees in its Lawrenceburg, Tenn., plant for 12 substances in May 2007. The problem was that seven of the substances tested for were legal medications “lawfully prescribed for the individuals taking them,” according to the EEOC.
The company—based in Rochester Hills, Minn.—also required the employees who tested positive for the legal meds to tell them what medical conditions they were taking the drugs for—and conducted the testing in such a way that everyone at the company knew who had tested positive. Dura then made it a condition of employment that the employees stop taking their (prescribed) drugs. According to the EEOC, the company then suspended employees until they stopped taking the prescribed meds, and fired those who were unable to perform their job duties without their medication.
The EEOC filed suit after attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process, the agency said.
Besides the $750,000 the company must pay, the terms also require, among other things, that Dura to create a written drug-testing policy that complies with federal law and train its human resources managers on the ADA.
"This agency will continue to enforce the ADA's prohibitions against illegal medical inquiries and examinations of employees where they are not job-related and consistent with business necessity," says Faye A. Williams, the EEOC's regional attorney for the Memphis District. "The EEOC's Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examination of Employees provides that asking an employee whether he or she is currently taking any prescription medications may be considered a medical inquiry."
What are the five drugs you can legally test for? Opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, cannibinoids, and phencyclidine (PCP). But there can be gray areas here: Opiates, for example, are prescribed to treat pain and other conditions, while amphetamines can be used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, severe depression, and narcolepsy. If in doubt, consult a lawyer.
What is your policy on drug testing?