Human Resources News & Insights

New minefield in your screening/hiring process: Prescription meds

Would you hire an applicant who admits he/she takes methadone? The answer might be a little trickier than you thought.  

The EEOC has recently filed suit against temp agency Randstad, which allegedly refused to hire a recovering drug addict who was using methadone.

Here’s how the EEOC described the situation: April Cox, a recovering drug addict, hadn’t used illegal drugs since being enrolled in a medically supervised rehabilitation program in 2011.  She received medically prescribed methadone as part of her ongoing, supervised drug rehabilitation treatment.

In January 2015, she applied with Randstad in Timonium, Md., for a vacant production laborer position at one of the staffing agency’s clients.  Randstad’s site manager told Cox she had enough experience to advance to the next part of the hiring process and requested that Cox provide a urine sample for a pre-employment drug text.

At that point, Cox disclosed that she was in a medically supervised methadone treatment program. The site manager took back the cup for the urine test and said, “I’m sure we don’t hire people on methadone, but I will contact my supervisor.”

Even though Cox repeatedly called back and informed the site manager that she did not have any medical restrictions from performing the laborer job, Randstad told Cox it would not hire her because she used methadone, the agency said.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Randstad, US, LP) in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleging that Randstad violated the ADA by refusing to hire a person with disability.

This isn’t a unique case, according to Kathryn Russo, writing on Jackson Lewis’ Drug Test Law Advisor blog:

  • In 2012, EEOC settled a lawsuit for $37,500 in which it alleged that an employer refused to hire an applicant who used methadone, and
  • In 2011, EEOC settled a lawsuit for $85,000 in which it alleged that an employer refused to hire an applicant due to his use of methadone and without conducting an “individualized assessment” to determine whether the applicant could perform the job safely.

So things might not look that good for Randstad in this case. We’ll keep you posted.

Numerous similar cases

Russo also listed other settlements companies made in cases involving employee use of prescription meds on the job:

April 2015 — $59,000 settlement of suit alleging that an employer terminated an employee for using prescription medications to treat chronic pain

2013 — $50,000 settlement of suit alleging that an employer fired an employee for taking bipolar medication

2013 — $25,000 settlement of suit alleging that an employer asked applicants whether they were taking any medications and to identify those medications

2012 — $750,000 settlement of suit alleging that an employer drug tested employees for prescription medications and made it a condition of employment that the employees cease taking their prescription medications, without any evidence that the medications adversely affected the employees’ job performances

2012 –$146,000 settlement of suit alleging that an employer refused to hire applicants and placed employees on leave due to the use of prescribed narcotic medications

2012 — $80,000 settlement of suit alleging that an employer refused to hire an applicant due to her use of prescribed medication for epilepsy, and

2010 — $32,500 settlement of suit alleging that an employer refused to hire an applicant due to the applicant’s use of prescription medication.

Clearly, this is an area where employers are going to need to tread carefully.

 

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