Possible Side Effects of Drug Testing

by Deborah Z Mark


Does your company require drug testing for current or potential employees? If so, you should be aware of the EEOC’s recent ruling against a Tennessee employer.

The company, Dura Automotive Systems, will pay a settlement of $750,000.

I bet that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

What they did

Dura tested all employees for 5 illegal controlled substances, as well as 7 legally, lawfully prescribed medications.

According to the EEOC, the company then required the employees who tested positive for the legally prescribed drugs to disclose their medical conditions.

To make matters worse, Dura then made it a condition of employment that the employees stop taking their prescription meds, and either suspended them until they stopped taking them, or fired the employees who were not able to perform their jobs without their medications!

What were they thinking?

ADA Requirements

The ADA considers any questions from an employer to an employee, or monitoring whether an employee is taking medication as prescribed, to be a “disability related inquiry”.  Any such inquiries must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

According to the EEOC, employers may not ask all employees what prescription medications they are taking, because that would not be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Special circumstances

In limited circumstances, certain employers may be able to demonstrate that it is job-related and consistent with business necessity to require employees in positions affecting public safety to report when they are taking medication that may affect their ability to perform essential functions.

The employer must be able to demonstrate that an employee’s inability or impaired ability to perform essential functions will result in a direct threat.

For example, a police department could require armed officers to report when they are taking certain medications that would affect their job performance.

A bus company could require drivers to report drugs that impair their ability to drive.

Either of these employers would not be allowed to require administrative employees to report medications because they would not pose a direct threat as a result of impaired ability to perform essential job functions.

Don’t do it!

With the exception of pre-employment drug screening, disregarding job duties and testing all employees for prescription medications is a violation of the ADA.

And a prescription for disaster.

managestaff is contracted with drug testing facilities nationwide, and can help your company set up a pre- or post-employment drug screening program. For additional information, give us a call.


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