These are complicated times for urgent care operators who offer occupational medicine services like employee drug screens. The opioid crisis across the country muddies the waters even more, as state laws and medical practice guidelines seek to inhibit the use of opioid pain medications in order to stem increases in addiction and related deaths. Many employers are following suit, but be mindful that even well-intentioned drug testing programs can have severe consequences—for the company. Most recently, a federal district court in Washington ordered a company to pay over $1.8 million to an employee it had fired for “failing” a drug test. The problem is the worker was taking the opioid drug she tested positive for legitimately, as prescribed by her doctor. The company’s strict “fitness for duty” policy allowed for drug tests at management’s discretion, but did not include any allowances for employees who take prescription medications to treat their disabilities (in the plaintiff’s case migraines that could be debilitating at times), so she was terminated after testing positive. She sued, and the court ultimately held that the employer failed to reasonably accommodate her condition. Occ med providers will be doing themselves and their clients a service by recommending that substance abuse policies pass muster with the legal team before any actions are taken.
Company Has to Pay $1.8 Million After Firing a Worker for Taking Prescribed Meds