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Press Release 09-01-2009


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 (, 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

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.