Posted in drug screening, EEOC, Federal law
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed two separate lawsuits in October, both of which are for alleged discrimination against employees with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses must provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees and applicants, and businesses may not discriminate against those with disabilities during the hiring process.
Suits were filed against FedEx Ground in North Carolina, as well as a Wal-Mart in Maryland, for alleged violations to the ADA.
In the case of FedEx Ground, the EEOC claims that reasonable accommodations were not made for employees that are deaf or hard-of-hearing, as employees were not provided with a sign-language interpreter or closed captions during training materials and videos. The EEOC also claims that alternative safety equipment — that which uses flashing lights or vibrations instead of beeps or other sounds — was not provided to these employees.
A FedEx spokesperson denied these allegations, which were made after a mandatory EEOC tour of the package-sorting facility. “FedEx Ground is committed to fair and equal treatment of all employees and believes the claims made by the EEOC are misleading and not founded in law,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart provided a vague defense for its actions when it withdrew a job offer for a sales associate that could not submit to a urine drug test due to late-stage renal cancer. The prospective employee offered to submit to a different type of drug test, such as a blood test, and was told that Wal-Mart’s corporate office would not agree to a different test. The job offer was withdrawn when urine test results were not available within 24 hours of the job offer.
The EEOC filed suit against the store, and Wal-Mart agreed to pay the applicant $72,500, as well as train that store’s managers on accommodating applicants with disabilities.
Similar suits have also been filed against a Maryland Kmart and a Texas rehabilitation center for not making reasonable drug-testing accommodations for those with renal cancer.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
Recently, the Georgia Council on Alcohol and Drugs hosted an event called “Drugs Don’t Work” in an attempt to discourage illegal drug usage in the workplace, particularly because 70 percent of the state’s illegal drug users can be found among its employed. The most commonly abused drugs? Prescription medications.
The Council is now providing incentives for businesses that implement drug-testing policies, as well as discouraging substance abuse by requiring that drug tests turn up clean in order for employees to maintain their jobs.
If Georgia businesses implement drug-testing policies — as well as programs educating and training employees about drug use and abuse, and counseling referral programs — they may be certified by the Council to receive a 7.5 percent discount on their Worker’s Compensation insurance.
This discount would be beneficial in more than one way; employers would not only pay less for the insurance, but by implementing education programs, they have a smaller chance of actually having to pay out Worker’s Compensation, as it is likely that sober employees, and those around them, would be at less risk for workplace accidents.
According to the Council, there is no one particular occupation or demographic that is most highly affected by drug use in the workforce, and that drug abuse can happen in any job.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing
Former U.S. Treasury Department employee and current California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari had an interesting idea. Lawmakers are constantly passing legislation about who should be background checked, drug tested, and investigated — in fact, California’s current Proposition 46, regarding drug testing for doctors, will be voted on in November — so why shouldn’t the legislators themselves be required to pass an annual drug test?
Kashkari expressed this sentiment during a stint as guest host on the Mark Larson radio show, though he said he thought that many lawmakers would not be okay with such a mandate.
“I think we should drug test legislators. Every statewide officeholder, and everyone in the Assembly and the Senate. Why don’t we just have an annual mandatory drug test?” Kashkari said on the air.
The candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Ron Nehring, also participated in the radio program, and Kashkari’s question came up during a discussion about legalizing marijuana, which current Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom supports. Both Nehring and Kashkari spoke about the possibility of proposing drug testing for legislators, though Nehring evaded a question about whether he specifically would be willing to participate in a drug test alongside Lt. Governor Newsom, by changing the direction of the conversation back to Proposition 46.
Kashkari was right about the legislator feedback regarding his comments; a spokesman for Democratic state Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said, “The only thing tripping is Mr. Kashkari’s desperate campaign.”
Later on, after his comments were publicly aired, Kashkari claimed that he was joking, and quipped that IQ tests should be required instead.
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Posted in drug screening, drug testing, pre-employment drug tests
A Chicago alderman has introduced a new ordinance that would require pre-employment drug testing — and subsequent annual drug testing — for all ride-sharing companies’ drivers within the city. Councilman Roderick Sawyer introduced the ordinance in September, after a drug-test mandate was eliminated from the ride-sharing ordinance that the Windy City passed in May.
The City Council was divided on May’s legislation, however. When the drug-testing language was removed from a previous ride-sharing bill, Sawyer felt he had to vote against it.
“We want to make sure our constituents are safe and have a safe ride,” said Sawyer. “It should have stayed in.”
The new ordinance requires that any ride-share driver pass pre-employment drug testing prior to receiving a license to carry passengers, as well as prior to renewing existing licenses.
Drug tests would also be required to be administered by a City Hall-approved company, under the ordinance. Companies and drivers that do not comply would be subject to per-incident fines up to $1,000, as well as license revocation for at least a year.
Chicago and other Illinois cities are able to create their own ordinances for ride-share companies after Governor Pat Quinn vetoed legislation in August, which would have placed stricter regulations on ride-share companies state-wide.
No timeframe has been set for voting on the new ordinance.
California also recently attempted to pass legislation mandating pre-employment drug testing for drivers; the bill did not pass.
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Posted in drug and alcohol testing, drug screening
The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed the expansion of its drug and alcohol testing regulations for railroad workers, particularly “maintenance-of-way” (MOW) employees, in order to protect its workers and public safety.
If the new policy is passed, all railroad employees, contractors and subcontractors who perform maintenance tasks — including inspecting, installing and repairing railroad tracks and electric track systems — will be subject to new drug-and-alcohol screening guidelines. Those who serve as flagmen will also be screened.
Since 1991, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been required to ensure transportation agencies employ federally mandated drug and alcohol testing programs. But maintenance-of-way employees, who may be contractors to the railroad and not specifically employees of the department, may not have been required to undergo the same kinds of testing.
The FRA wants to set its minimum testing percentages at 50% of all employees each year for drug testing, and 25% for alcohol testing each year. Employees, contractors and subcontractors would be selected at random for screening, though if a MOW worker is behaving suspiciously, he or she may also be subject to drug or alcohol testing.
Not only do these workers put themselves at risk of danger from being struck by moving trains, but their jobs require clear heads in order to prevent the rails and cars from becoming a public danger for railroad passengers and other vehicles that may be crossing or passing near the tracks.
It is estimated that, over a 20-year period, the new proposed regulations would cost approximately $24 million to cover the MOW employees and contractors. But the policy is expected to save the transportation industry more than $115 million in injury, property damage and fatality liability charges.
Posted in drug screening, drug tests
Rio de Janeiro used to have an accredited drug-testing lab. But it was shut down in 2013 by the World Anti-Doping Agency and lost its accreditation due to “repeated failures,” including too many false positives on athlete drug tests.
During the recent soccer World Cup, which also took place in Rio, Brazil had to ship its samples for drug screening to Switzerland for testing. That process cost FIFA approximately $250,000.
Meanwhile, the 2016 Olympics will be hosted in Rio de Janeiro as well. The Games are just two short years away, and the country still finds itself without a drug-screening lab that has been accredited by WADA and deemed suitable for screening the athletes that will be arriving from all over the world.
If Brazil cannot get its anti-doping act together, it may be forced to ship testing samples to another lab again. If so, it is likely to cost the astronomically more than it did for the World Cup, as only 800 players were tested for drugs during the soccer tournament. More than 10,000 athletes are expected to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
There are only 32 WADA-accredited labs in the world.
Brazil’s lab was closed after it found that .81% of tests fell outside the normal substance limits; its samples were tested at a separate lab and found to be incorrect. False positives on drug tests can destroy athletes’ reputations, not to mention keep them from competing and cause them to lose the sponsorships that are so common at the summer and winter Games.
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Posted in drug screening, drug testing, employee drug screening
Utah-based SkyWest Airlines was fined earlier this month after allegedly informing the Federal Aviation Administration of problems related to its drug testing policies over the previous two years. The FAA fined SkyWest $295,750 for the violations, in accordance with the Department of Transportation’s drug-testing policies.
SkyWest allegedly received the fine for three different types of violations: the first being that more than 150 employees were left out of the airline’s random drug testing pool; second, due to two employees failing drug tests and still being hired for “safety sensitive” roles; and finally, the airline requiring post-accident drug tests for non-safety-sensitive personnel on three separate occasions, unnecessarily.
SkyWest expressed its disappointment in the FAA’s decision to impose fines since the airline informed the FAA directly of the problems. In an e-mail statement, SkyWest airline spokesperson Marissa Snow said, “We are extremely disappointed with the FAA’s decision to impose a penalty for a self-disclosure. SkyWest Airlines maintains a robust drug and alcohol testing program for all safety-sensitive employees, and is committed to maintaining a drug-free workplace.”
SkyWest pilots fly planes for four other airlines as well, including Delta Airlines and American Airlines. SkyWest and the FAA are expected to meet sometime this month to review the violations.
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Posted in drug screening, drug test, drug testing, employee drug screening, pre-employment drug tests
As states pass legislation legalizing the use of marijuana, employers are finding themselves in a tough spot. Especially if they have policies in place that require applicants to pass a pre-employment drug test before an offer is extended.
Obviously, employers want to know that the people they hire are going to be good workers and that they will not put other employees — or the company — at risk for safety issues. Therefore, many companies have previously chosen to conduct a pre-employment drug test on potential candidates to ensure the applicant is not one of the 23.9 million Americans that are drug users.
But when states like Colorado have legalized marijuana — or as states such as California are considering legislation that would legalize the drug — can employers choose not to employ a candidate who uses a completely legal substance off the clock?
After marijuana was legalized in Colorado, the Mountain State Employers Council created guidelines to help the state’s employers with their drug-testing policies. Their guidelines state that employees cannot be punished for legal off-duty activities, but that employers can still conduct a pre-employment drug test on applicants (and refuse to hire legal drug users) without worry of discrimination.
Meanwhile, some employers prefer not to conduct drug tests at all, because the legalization of cannabis creates a gray area that’s akin to the space between a rock and a hard place: should it be treated as alcohol, fine in moderation? Or should its use be considered equivalent to an illegal substance? And how does marijuana usage fall in regard to zero-tolerance policies?
Traditional drug tests screen for nine different types of substances, including opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines, and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Some expect that, as marijuana usage becomes legal in more states, a standard pre-employment drug test will need to be changed to only test for harder substances. Others are likely to follow in Colorado’s footsteps, and revise their existing drug-testing policies to account for what the company will and will not allow in regard to hiring legal drug users.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing
The FIFA World Cup is, quite literally, good clean fun. So far, after drug testing urine and blood samples from 800 of the sport’s players, not a single one has turned up positive.
That number includes clean drug tests for 91 percent of the members of the preliminary squads for each team. Those squads comprise 30 members, but only 23 members of each team actually traveled to Brazil to compete.
FIFA began conducting drug tests on those competing players during the first nine matches.
Urine and blood samples are collected and sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Switzerland, after Brazil lost its lab accreditation in 2013. Despite being shipped from Rio de Janeiro, FIFA Chief Medical Officer Jiri Dvorak made a statement that “all samples arrived under 36 hours in Lausanne [Switzerland] and were processed within 24 hours.”
Thirty-two teams, including one from host country Brazil, are participating in the World Cup, which began on June 12 and will continue through July 13.
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Posted in drug screening, employee drug screening, pre-employment screening
It makes sense that healthcare facilities would want their employees to be healthy, considering that their job is to dole out advice and care to keep others healthy. But do hospitals and health systems have the right to include smoking bans in their corporate hiring policy? Or can banning cigarettes and other forms of tobacco be considered a form of discrimination?
In 2007, a clinic in Ohio began refusing to hire employees that utilized tobacco products. Since then, between 50 and 60 percent of health care clinics have instated similar anti-smoking policies, which may include nicotine testing in addition to any pre-employment drug tests. Insurance group Humana began utilizing tobacco tests during the hiring process back in 2011.
However, some are calling these bans discrimination, including a few professors that have written an article in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Their claims are based on research that claims banning tobacco usage may have a greater impact on those who are “lower-skilled.”
Dr. Thomas Huddle and Dr. Stefan Kertesz — both affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, which has its own anti-smoking policy — contributed to the assessment. Their article states “Smokers are only 18 percent of the adult population in the United States, but they make up 26.1 percent of those with incomes less than $35,000/year and 25.5 percent of those without a high school diploma.”
The report continues that among medical school students, it is “likely to be poorer individuals” and minorities who will be barred from receiving jobs on the basis of anti-tobacco restrictions.
Meanwhile, UAB’s Health System CEO William Ferniany says that out of every 1,000 applicants at UAB Hospital, less than 2 percent of them fail nicotine tests.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not currently protect against tobacco users. The EEOC only protects against discrimination in cases of age, race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, pregnancy and cases of harassment.
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