- A Wisconsin inpatient residential health facility violated federal law when it rescinded a job offer because the job applicant tested positive for a prescribed medication, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit.
- Rogers Behavioral Health (Rogers) offered the applicant a job as an intake specialist. At her pre-employment physical, which included a drug screen, the applicant disclosed that she had a prescription for Alprazolam, the generic form of Xanax, a medication commonly prescribed for anxiety, the EEOC says. The doctor who performed the physical indicated on the physical examination form that she had reviewed the applicant's drug screen and found her medically acceptable for work as an intake specialist.
- The EEOC says Rogers pulled the offer because it regarded the applicant as disabled due to her drug screen, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived disability. Rogers also failed to contact the applicant or give her the opportunity to provide additional information to contest the drug screen, says the EEOC, and withdrew the job offer via email without explaining that the decision was related to the drug screen.
The ADA prohibits discrimination by covered employers against a qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment, according to the EEOC.
The "regarded as" prong of the ADA's definition of disability protects an individual from discrimination based on an employer's belief that he or she has a disability. The bar for proving "regarded as" claims was lowered under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Establishing a successful "regarded as" claim is now based on "how a person has been treated because of a physical or mental impairment (that is not transitory and minor), rather than on what an employer may have believed about the nature of the person's impairment," according to the EEOC.
While workplaces are generally free to prohibit illegal drug use at work (with medical marijuana an evolving area of the law), federal law requires employers to try to accommodate qualified individuals with disabilities who are properly using prescription medications. A business may conclude that an accommodation poses a direct threat to safety or an undue hardship on the business, but this is a difficult legal standard to meet.