Human Resources News & Insights

Prescription drug testing: Safety measure or ADA violation?

Can employers, concerned about workplace safety, fire workers who take certain types of prescription medications? A new lawsuit should give us some answers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against an automotive parts manufacturer after the company conducted blanket drug tests — including testing for lawfully prescribed drugs — of all production employees at its Lawrenceburg, TN,  facility.

The EEOC claims that Dura Automotive, Inc., violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by conducting the blanket testing.

The agency said Dura required those who tested positive for certain drugs like painkillers to disclose the medical conditions for which they were taking the medications — without any evidence that the medications were affecting the employees’ job performances.

According to the EEOC, Dura suspended employees until they stopped taking their prescription medications, and fired those who were unable to perform their job duties without the benefit of the medicine.

Motivated by safety concerns

In a recent New York Times story, the company embarked on the testing program because of plant safety concerns. “The goal of the plan was to provide a safe environment,” the Times quotes Lindy Boots, Dura’s former HR director, as saying.

Under the company’s policy, a prescription drug was considered unsafe if it carried a label warning against driving or operating machinery.

The EEOC lawsuit asks the federal district court to bar Dura from conducting medical exams and making medical inquiries of employees in violation of the ADA, and provide for out-of-pocket losses and compensatory and punitive damages for the adversely affected employees.

We’ll keep you posted.

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