Random Alcohol Test is Discriminatory

Here are HR legal and compliance issues you need to know: **********************************************************

Court held that an employee terminated after failing a random, post-treatment alcohol test was discriminatory.

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In A.D.P.V. Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Co., an Appellate Court ruled that the trial court erred in dismissing a lawsuit brought by an alcoholic who, despite her 27 years of satisfactory job performance, was terminated after a random alcohol test revealed that she consumed alcohol. The employee in this case revealed to ExxonMobil that she had an alcohol problem and that she completed rehabilitation care for this issue. ExxonMobil then required the employee to sign an “after care contract” that required recovering alcoholics to pledge total abstinence from alcohol and to submit to random alcohol tests for two years. In a random drug test, ExxonMobil discovered the presence of alcohol in the employee and terminated the employee. A trial court issued a summary judgment in favor of ExxonMobil and the Appellate Court found that the trial court got it wrong. The Appellate Court found that the provisions of the “after care contract” constituted direct evidence of discrimination as they were imposed only upon alcoholics, which demonstrated hostility toward the employee’s protected class, and was the direct cause of the employee’s termination. The Appellate Division ruled that summary judgment should not have been granted because:

#1 The company could not show that the plaintiff was unable to perform her job duties adequately or was unfit for work,

#2 The company could not justify the application of its after-care contract under the “business necessity” defense, because there was no proof that the mere use of alcohol by the plaintiff would impair her ability to perform her job duties efficiently and safely, and

#3 -The company could not justify application of the contract under the “direct threat/safety” defense, because ExxonMobil did not perform an individualized assessment to determine whether the plaintiff posed a safety risk.

MANAGEMENT LESSON

Here are the takeaways from this material. Recovering alcoholics and recovering drug addicts are protected classes. That being stated, there is a difference between tests that identify the presence of alcohol, which is a legal substance, and tests that identify illegal drugs. Having a zero tolerance policy relating to illegal drugs is acceptable barring any state laws such as states that have legalized certain drugs like marijuana. When it comes to a legal substance such as alcohol, the 3 guidelines above need to be applied to ensure that an employment practice does not single out a specific protected class

.Dedicated To Enhancing Your HR Assets!

Kiesha Valentine, PHR, SHRM-CP, CMHR
Human Resources
Cell: 714-982-1789
Mailing Address:
5753 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd., Suite #G242
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807


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