Agency Says Pine City Company Fired Employee for Taking Legally Prescribed Medication; Other Employees Subjected to Illegal Inquiries About Medication Use
MINNEAPOLIS – Product Fabricators, Inc., a Pine City, Minn., contract manufacturer, has violated federal disability discrimination law by its policies requiring employees to report their use of legal prescription drugs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed late yesterday.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, 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.
The EEOC also asserted 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 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because it is not related to the ability of Product Fabricators 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 ADA, which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on perceived disabilities. The EEOC’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Product Fabricators, Inc.; Civil Action No. 0:09-cv-02303 PAM/RLE), was brought only after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer.
“It is unfortunate that many employers still deny the opportunity for work to people who are ready and able simply because of inaccurate perceptions of disability,” said John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office where the charge was filed. “The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of people victimized by such prejudices.”
With respect to the collection of personal health information of employees, John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney for the Chicago District, added, “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. The purpose of the ADA is to extinguish the stereotypes and biases that prevent people from obtaining or maintaining employment. Compulsory but irrelevant and unnecessary inquiries, like the drug policy in place at Product Fabricators, serve no legitimate employer purpose but provide fertile ground for the development of unfounded stereotypes and irrational assumptions about an employee’s ability.”
In this case, the EEOC is seeking injunctive relief that includes elimination of Product Fabricators’ unlawful drug disclosure policy, and will seek back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on Anderson’s behalf.
According to the company’s web site (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 EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
This page was last modified on September 1, 2009.
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