Federal Agency Charges Company Made Medical Inquires and Conducted Medical Exams Prohibited by the ADA
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Michigan-based automotive parts company violated federal law when it conducted blanket drug tests of all of its production employees at its Lawrenceburg, Tenn., manufacturing facility, including testing for lawfully prescribed drugs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges in a lawsuit announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00059 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division), Dura Automotive, Inc. tested all of its production employees for certain legally prescribed drugs for 12 different classes of drugs. Five of the drugs tested for were controlled substances, the EEOC said, but the other seven were legal medications so long as they are lawfully prescribed for the individuals taking them.
Further, Dura required those who tested positive to disclose the medical conditions for which they were taking prescription medications and made it a condition of employment that the employees stop taking their prescription medications, without any evidence that the medications were affecting the employees’ job performances. According to the EEOC, Dura then would suspend the 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. 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.
All this alleged conduct violates various provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the EEOC charged. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The lawsuit asks the court to, among other things, grant a permanent injunction enjoining Dura from conducting medical exams and making medical inquiries of employees in violation of the ADA, and provide for out-of-pocket losses and compensatory and punitive damages for the adversely affected employees.
“Identifying employees who have disabilities is a first step toward possibly making those employees targets for discrimination,” said Katharine W. Kores, the EEOC’s director for the Memphis District Office. “The ADA allows employers to test employees for controlled substances, but testing for legally prescribed medications and forcing employees to disclose their medical reasons for taking them clearly exceeds what the ADA allows an employer to do. The situation at Dura Automotive was aggravated by the company’s humiliating those who tested positive by conducting its tests in a manner that immediately made their identities known to its entire work force.”
According to company information, Dura Automotive Systems, Inc., headquartered in Rochester Hills, Mich., is a global provider of parts for automotive and specialty vehicles. It has approximately 9,800 employees at 33 manufacturing facilities worldwide, including its facility in Lawrenceburg.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.