The EEOC lawsuit alleged two infractions. Remember that it is important for an employer to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in its hiring process. In this case, the EEOC lawsuit alleged that the company refused to hire an applicant for a factory position because he was taking suboxone, a medically prescribed treatment for opioid addiction, without considering whether it affected his ability to do the job safely.
First infraction was asking the individuals to disclose, and test for the existence of, legally prescribed medications. These actions can only be done only after a conditional job offer has been extended to the individual. Testing for illegal drugs can occur before a conditional job offer has occurred. We covered this in some detail in this previous blog post
Second infraction was not properly linking the negative impact of these legal drugs on workplace safety. It did not properly define how these legal drugs would adversely impact performance of the job’s essential duties. We covered this correlation in this previous blog post.
A summary of the EEOC lawsuit is as follows:
Appalachian Wood Products, Inc. will pay $42,500 and furnish other relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the lawsuit, Appalachian Wood Products refused to hire an applicant for a factory position because he was taking suboxone, a medically prescribed treatment for opioid addiction, without considering whether it affected his ability to do the job safely. The company also unlawfully required applicants to disclose their use of medications prior to making conditional job offers. Further, the company refused to hire individuals into certain jobs or assigned them to less-desirable positions based on their answers to these illegal medical inquiries, the EEOC charged.
Refusing to hire a qualified individual because of use of prescribed medications for treatment of a disability or to prevent recurrence of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA also prohibits employers from making medical inquiries of job applicants or requiring them to submit to medical exams prior to a bona fide conditional job offer, including prohibiting any inquiries about prescribed medication use before making a job offer. The EEOC filed suit (U.S. EEOC v.
In addition to the $42,500 in monetary relief to two workers, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Appalachian Wood Products from making medical inquiries or examinations before making a conditional job offer in the future. The company will also refrain from using the results of allowed post-offer medical exams in any manner that violates the ADA. Further the company is also prohibited in the future from engaging in any employment practice that unlawfully discriminates against any person in hiring or job assignments because he or she is receiving medical treatment for drug addiction. The company also agreed to refrain from engaging in retaliation.
Appalachian Wood Products will also:
- create and implement employment policies that prohibit discrimination and retaliation;
- provide training on the ADA and the employer’s legal obligations to provide a reasonable accommodation;
- report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination; and
- post a notice regarding the settlement.
Randisi & Associates, Inc. is not a law firm and this is not intended to constitute legal advice. We always recommend that competent employment legal counsel be contacted in these types of situations.