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When Does Employer Drug Testing Become Discrimination?

An article recently appearing in The New York Times takes an in-depth look at the issue of drug testing in the workplace. The presence of illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, in an employee’s system could lead to their immediate termination. But, increasingly, employees are finding that they can lose their jobs for taking legal medications prescribed to them by their doctors.

The New York Times article centers on a current lawsuit brought against an auto-parts maker, Dura Automotive Systems. The company was sued by employees who were terminated after testing positive for certain prescription medications. The employees are suing for invasion of privacy and discrimination. Many assert that they were taking pain medications for injuries on the job, and they say that supervisors were aware of the injuries and medications.

The former employees say they wish their employers would have worked with them before simply firing them for the positive drug test result. A physician specializing in pain management was interviewed by the Times and said that generally opiate painkillers can actually help people with pain or an injury do their job better, and most who are generally healthy and taking a well-prescribed dose under a doctor’s supervision will not have problems doing their job safely.

The problem is that it can be hard to quantitatively measure whether a person is impaired from their prescription medication. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that an employer has to have a reasonable belief that a person is unable to do their job or is compromising safety because of a medical condition before they can take an adverse action against that employee for the condition. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also filed a lawsuit against the company.


Drug Testing Poses Quandary for Employers (The New York Times)


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