Your Employer Can’t Fire You for Taking Rx Medication
An Ohio company has settled with EEOC for $50,000 after firing an employee who tested positive for a prescribed medication for her bipolar disorder. The agency accused the company of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Adverse Reaction at Work
Chassity Brady was a quality control lab technician in the Braselton, Ga. facility of Dayton Superior Corporation, a concrete and masonry construction company, according to the EEOC.
After Brady had an adverse reaction at work to a drug prescribed to her to treat her bipolar disorder, Dayton Superior forced her to take a drug test. Even though the only thing she tested positive for was the bipolar drug, the employer fired her.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit on Brady’s behalf in September. Under the settlement announced Jan. 4, Dayton Superior agreed to pay Brady $50,000 and to complete training, report to the EEOC, and post relevant notices.
Legally Prescribed Drugs Protected
Employers are never supposed to make hiring and firing decisions based on disabilities – including those that are only indicated by a prescription.
“Way back in September we cautioned employers not to fire employees for taking legally prescribed meds,” writes Rich Cohen, a lawyer with Fox Rothschild, in a blog post about the case.
Cohen cites another case where an employer had an actual policy and practice of drug testing employees for not only illegal drugs but also a group of perfectly legal prescription medications. In that case, the EEOC settled with a Tennessee employer for $750,000.
In that case the EEOC said Dura Automotive Systems required employees who tested positive for legally prescribed medications to disclose the medical conditions for which they were taking prescription medications. Dura also said employees could only keep their jobs if they stopped taking their meds.
“Dura then suspended employees until they stopped taking their prescription medications, and fired those who were unable to perform their job duties without the benefit of their prescription medications,” said the EEOC.
“Moreover, Dura conducted the drug tests in such a manner as to disclose to its entire work force the identities of those who tested positive.”
If your employer utilizes any such policy, talk to a lawyer or consider filing a charge with the EEOC.
ADA ‘Designed to Combat’ This
“The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability as well as a ‘perceived disability,’” notes Cohen. In Brady’s case, the employer didn’t technically fire her for having bipolar disorder, but it might as well have in the EEOC’s eyes.
“The EEOC filed this case because the evidence indicated Ms. Brady was terminated because her disability required her to take medication,” said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, in a press release.
“Making employment decisions on the basis of stereotypical assumptions about disability-based medications is one of the problems the ADA was designed to combat,” said Dawkins.