Monday, April 4, 2011

EEOC Toughens Stance Against Random Alcohol Testing Policies

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against U.S. Steel Corporation alleging the Company's random alcohol testing policy—authorized by a collective bargaining agreement—violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, alcohol testing is considered a medical exam and medical exams are permitted only when "job-related" and "consistent with business necessity." Therefore, a random alcohol test is only permitted when employers have a reasonable belief that a particular employee will be unable to perform the job or will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.

In the U.S. Steel case complaint, the EEOC alleges the ADA was violated when they required probationary employee Abigail DeSimone to submit to a random breathalyzer tests administered by a company nurse. When DeSimone tested positive for alcohol, she advised the nurse that she had not ingested any alcohol in the past month, and that her medical condition might have contributed to the positive test result. That same day, DeSimone's personal physician performed a blood alcohol test and obtained a negative result. Although the results were made available to U.S. Steel, the company refused to accept them. DeSimone was ultimately terminated for violating the company's alcohol policy.

This will be a highly interesting case to follow as many employers use random alcohol and drug testing and often times for reasons not related to the job or for business necessity.

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