The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on January 23 announced that the United Insurance Company of America will pay $37,500 to Craig Burns, whom the company refused to hire because his pre-employment drug test was positive for methadone. Mr. Burns, a patient in an opioid treatment program (OTP) since 2004, was offered a job in North Carolina by the insurance company in January 2010, but the job offer was contingent on his passing a drug test. He gave the company a letter from his OTP explaining why his test was positive for methadone, and said that he was taking a legally prescribed medication. When it got the letter, United Insurance withdrew its employment offer.
This was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the EECO sued United Insurance in August 2011 for discriminating against someone with a disability. “The ADA requires employers to make an individualized assessment of whether an individual can do the job rather than relying on fears or stereotypes,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, which includes the Raleigh Area Office, where the original charge of discrimination was filed. “We are pleased that, in resolving this case, United Insurance is taking action to ensure that it fulfills its obligations under the ADA.”
In addition to paying Mr. Burns $37,500, United Insurance must perform training that covers the legal requirement to conduct an individualized assessment of disability; the appropriate methods of determining whether the employee poses a direct threat; and the obligation to consider an employee’s or applicant’s request for reasonable accommodation.
Mr. Burns had already found employment elsewhere, so getting rehired wasn’t part of the settlement, Ms. Barnes told AT Forum. So while that $37,500 doesn’t sound adequate for not getting a job in these hard times, at least there is one employer that will no longer be violating federal law by discriminating against OTP patients.
For the press release announcing the resolution, go to
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-23-12.cfm. Accessed February 20, 2012.
http://atforum.com/2011/11/eeoc-sues-employer-for-discriminating-against-methadone-patient/. Accessed February 20, 2012.
For the Consent Decree, go to
Accessed February 20, 2012.