A recent settlement entered into by a private employer and the EEOC illustrates that an across-the-board drug test may not be a foolproof device for excluding employees when they test positive or are in danger of testing positive.
In the case in question, which was filed in Maryland, an employee had submitted an application for employment seeking a position as a production laborer. The employee was deemed qualified to advance to the next stage of the hiring process. However, when asked to provide a urine sample for a pre-employment drug test, the employee revealed that she was in a medically supervised methadone treatment program. Upon later inquiry, and even though she told the company that she did not have any medical restriction from performing the job in question, she was told the company would not hire her because she used methadone. The EEOC filed a lawsuit on her behalf and the company subsequently agreed to pay $50,000.00 to settle.
Although virtually all of the cases which are part of this newsletter involve court decisions or the latest news from various agencies, this case is instructive with respect to the role of prescribed drugs. Even though the methadone would have led to a positive test result, it was a lawfully prescribed medication administered pursuant to participation in a bona fide treatment program.
An important facet of a pre-employment drug testing program is the provision of an opportunity for the employee to explain any prescribed medications they are using which may impact the results of the test. Even though, in this particular situation, the test was not actually administered, the applicant’s disclosure before the test should have been analyzed in light of the protection provided employees who test or may test positive because of a lawfully prescribed drug such as methadone. Before any employment decision is made in this area, the nature of the employee’s disclosure must be analyzed and properly evaluated.