AUTOMOTIVE PARTS COMPANY COMMITS MAJOR ADA MISTAKE

by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

In a settlement announced by the EEOC on 9/5/12, Dura Automotive Systems agreed to a $750,000 ADA settlement (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-5-12.cfm). It was alleged that Dura tested its existing employees in its Lawrenceburg, Tennessee plant for 12 substances. Problem is that several of these substances were legally prescribed drugs. On top of that, Dura forced those testing positive for legally prescribed drugs to cease using them prior to returning to work or face termination. The $750,000 dollar settlement is for 27 affected employees. The settlement also:

  • enjoins Dura from making medical inquires and conducting medical examinations that are prohibited by the ADA; 
  • prohibits Dura from conducting employee drug screens that are not job-related or consistent with business necessity; 
  • enjoins Dura from illegally disclosing confidential information obtained through medical inquires of employees; 
  • requires that Dura create a written drug-testing policy that complies with federal law; 
  • mandates that Dura provide training for its human resources managers on the ADA; and 
  • requires Dura's CEO to issue a statement confirming the company's expectation that all employees will comply with the ADA and that Dura will not retaliate against any employee making a complaint under the ADA or about Dura's testing policy. 

The settlement occurs on the heels of a July 20,2011 jury verdict in Bates v. Dura Auto. Sys. Inc. [650 F. Supp. 2d 754] in which six terminated employees were awarded $878,309 in back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

Personally, I think it would be illegal under the ADA to even test for prescribed drugs, let alone identify and terminate, without a business related reason. Furthermore, unless someone can enlighten me, it’s hard to imagine what that reason would be.

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