In a press release dated 10/5/10, the EEOC claimed that U.S. Steel Corporation violated federal law when it applied a nationwide policy of requiring probationary employees to undergo random alcohol tests and fired an employee as a result of such a test, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit.
Apparently, the company randomly requires alcohol testing for all probationary employees. The employee was given a random alcohol test where she gave a false positive. The company doctor refused to give another form of test, which she obtained from her doctor. The employee told the company doctor that her false positive was due to a medical condition.
At issue is that the employee’s union negotiated a contract that allowed the company to test for alcohol without cause. The EEOC’s position is that the union did not have the right to negotiate on a topic that would give away rights granted under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Although an employer may, of course, prohibit the usage of illegal drugs and alcohol in the workplace and hold all employees to the same conduct and performance standards, the ADA strictly restricts workplace medical examinations, including breath alcohol tests,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. “An employer can only require an employee to submit to a medical examination such as an alcohol test if the examination is job-related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC is committed to eradicating systemic discrimination in the workplace, including blanket policies mandating medical examinations that violate federal law.”
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 2:10-cv-01284.
The case could have far reaching impact on alcohol policies for companies of all sizes. If you have a company policy that requires random alcohol testing, you are going to want to follow this case.