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Are employee rights violated when bosses ask about Rx drugs?

Most Missouri workers understand that their employers have the right to screen for and fire employees who are using illegal drugs. But what happens when an employee is taking legally prescribed drugs for legitimate conditions? Do employers have a right to know or even ask? What are the employees' rights in these situations?

While there are state and federal statutes in place that protect disabled workers who must take prescribed medicines, healthy workers taking many of the same drugs are not afforded those protections.

Under provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, disabled workers may administer prescribed medications in order to manage the side effects of their disabilities. In order for their employers to accommodate them under the ADA, these workers may need to disclose which medications they must take to an employer. An example could be a diabetic revealing that he or she must have time to take a shot of insulin during a shift. The ADA makes it illegal for employers to demand information about their employees' disabilities, which also includes their medications.

When there are workplace safety issues involved, business owners have a duty to maintain a safe working environment. In order to do so, a business owner may need to be aware that some employees are taking prescribed medications like opiates for pain control. Depending on the type of business and work performed and because painkillers decrease sensitivity and motor functions, employers may not be able to afford the safety risk that medicated workers pose.

As it applies to drug screening of its employers, companies must implement written drug policies to their employees that detail the violations for employment drug policies and the penalties for any violations. Because of these policies, employers must be informed prior to screening which drugs their workers are prescribed to eliminate positive drug screens that could jeopardize employment.

When it comes to terminating the employment of medicated workers, employers often do so in order to improve productivity and safety on the job. So if an employer suspects that an employee is abusing his or her legally prescribed medications while at work, termination is indeed a possibility.

Those who feel they have been unfairly terminated may contact a Missouri employment law attorney for information and advice.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Do Employers Need to Know About Drugs Employees Are Taking?" Jonathan Lister, Sep. 03, 2014

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