A company’s policy of random drug testing is a matter of safety in some occupations, such as jobs that involve the use of heavy equipment or where an individual is responsible for the care of others; in these jobs, random drug testing is considered routine. If you want to be employed in these industries or get paid to have certain responsibilities, you submit to the random drug testing or you look for work elsewhere. Most employees are hired with the understanding that this is the company policy, and if a test were to turn up positive, most would recognize the validity behind their subsequent suspension or firing.
Most, but not all. In 2012, a former employee of ExxonMobil sued the company when they were let go after turning in a positive drug test.
Employee Claimed Company Drug Testing Policy Discriminated Against Addicts
The court case came about because of a policy ExxonMobil has in place for self-identified alcoholics – employees who have admitted to having an alcohol problem and are returning to work after completing a treatment program. ExxonMobil requires these employees to sign a sobriety agreement and comply with random Breathalyzer tests as a condition of their employment with the company.
In the case of ADP v. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, the employee, ADP, was forced to sign such an agreement after returning from rehab. The woman lost her job 10 months later when she failed a Breathalyzer test. The clincher was that the company had notated no issues up to that point with her work performance. Because ADP was still performing well in her position, she claims that the policy is discriminatory against individuals with a substance abuse problem.
Court Ruled ExxonMobil’s Employee Policy Was Discriminatory
The court determined that ADP had a solid case and ruled in her favor for a number of reasons, including:
- The policy was discriminatory because only individuals who admitted to having an alcohol problem were subject to the random drug screening.
- Federal and state legislation recognize alcoholism as a disability and no employer may discriminate due to a disability, unless they can prove it affects job performance or poses a risk to the health and/or safety of others.
- ExxonMobil could not prove ADP’s drinking had affected her job performance thus far and she was not in a position to endanger others on the job.
It is important that companies do not discriminate against employees who are attempting to live a clean and sober life after treatment. Whatever policies they have that pertain to drug testing must be applied to everyone, because it is often the individual who no one knows has a substance abuse problem that poses the greatest risk on the job.
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