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Prescription Medications in the Workplace

Use of a prescription medication in the workplace is often not problematic, but it can raise an issue if an employer deems the use of a medication interferes with an employee’s ability to perform his or her job duties. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect appropriate use of prescription medications in the workplace and ensure accommodations are made by employers when it is appropriate.

Issues related to prescription medication, however, can get confusing when an employee is misusing the drug. Recently, Ohio limited the ability of employees to receive reimbursements for pain medication from the state’s workers’ compensation fund, it claimed in an effort to prevent abuse. As a result of this and efforts in other states that appear to be targeting employees using prescription medications, the EEOC is taking legal action.

Georgia Man Fired for Use of Prescription Painkillers

In one case in Georgia, Dr. Alunda Hunt was fired from his job at a the Spaulding Regional Medical Center after revealing he was receiving treatment that included prescription medication and spinal injections for a chronic medical condition.

According to the complaint filed against the company, neither the employee’s condition, nor his treatments, had any bearing on his ability to perform work tasks. The employee provided a doctor’s note explaining his treatment as part of the employer’s credentialing process and was then asked to resign. When he refused to do so his employer terminated him, claiming use of the prescription drugs could interfere with job performance.

The EEOC became involved in the case after the organization learned the employer did not request medical certification regarding the effect of the employee’s medication on his ability to safely perform essential job functions. Once that is requested, employers are able to evaluate an employee on an individual basis to determine if reasonable accommodations are possible or if the employee truly is no longer able to perform his or her duties.

In the case above, the employer assumed the medication would interfere with the employee’s ability to perform his job requirements and failed to engage the employee in the process of determining this to truly be the case.

ADA Requires Communication about Prescription Medication and Evaluation on an Individual Basis

One of the goals of the ADA, in addition to protecting workers, is to ensure employees and employers engage in conversations about disabilities and the need for accommodations. The law is in place to encourage employers to avoid assumptions. When an employer takes action without performing due diligence, it results in liability.

In instances that involve prescription drug use in the workplace, employers must speak to employees, certify and verify how the medication will or will not affect his or her ability to perform the job, and if possible, make accommodations for the employee. If this is not possible, only then is it legal to terminate an employee using prescription medications.

Millions of people across the country and throughout New York use prescription drugs to treat medical conditions. They do so under the supervision of their doctor and they do so without misuse or abuse of the drug. Employers cannot take action against an employee using prescription drugs without following a specific procedure. If your employer has terminated you from your position, you might have a right to take legal action.

For more information or to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation


Loren Richardson v. Regeis Care Center, LLC, and C...
ADA and Obvious Disabilities

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