Pine City Company Fired Employee for Taking Legally Prescribed Medication; Made Illegal Inquiries into Legal Medication Used by Other Employees
MINNEAPOLIS – Product Fabricators, Inc., a Pine City, Minn., manufacturer, will pay $40,000 to settle a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC’s consent decree resolving the case was approved yesterday by Judge Paul A. Magnuson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
In its lawsuit, filed in 2009, the EEOC charged that Product Fabricators fired long-time employee Dennis Anderson because he was taking a low-dosage, prescribed narcotic medication for back pain. The EEOC said that such action was taken because Product Fabricators perceived Anderson as being disabled solely because he was taking the medication, and failed to consider his ability to perform the job. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Product Fabricators, Inc.; Civil Action No. 0:09-cv-02303 PAM/LIB)
The EEOC also said that the Product Fabricators required all employees to report whether they were taking any prescription or over-the-counter medication. The EEOC said that this policy is a violation of the ADA because it is not related to the ability of employees to do their jobs, and is therefore unlawful because employees complying with the policy were likely to unwillingly disclose information about any disabilities or impairments they may have. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on perceived disabilities.
EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, who managed the federal agency’s pre-suit investigation, said that today’s approval of the consent decree by the District Court will brings a formal end to the litigation between the EEOC and the Pine City employer, but the resolution will require the company to submit to ongoing training, reporting and monitoring by the EEOC. In addition to paying $40,000 to Anderson, Product Fabricators must also drop its intrusive and unlawful policy of requiring employees to report all prescription or over-the-counter medication to their supervisors.
“Requiring all employees to report their legal use of prescription drugs – and even over-the-counter medication – amounts to an unreasonable invasion of privacy, whether an employee is disabled or not,” said EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson. “The purpose of the ADA is to extinguish the prejudices and biases that prevent people from obtaining or maintaining employment. Compulsory but irrelevant inquiries, like the drug policy Product Fabricators maintained, serve no legitimate employer purpose but provide fertile ground for the development of unfounded stereotypes and irrational assumptions about an employee’s ability.”
According to the company’s website (www.productfab.com), Product Fabricators is a contract manufacturer providing sheet metal fabrication and powder coating services for a diverse range of industries including medical, computing, industrial, telecommunications, energy and electronics.
The government’s litigation effort was led by EEOC Trial Attorney Nicholas Pladson and Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, and operates Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.