- A Texas location of International Paper Co. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it revoked a conditional job offer to an applicant diagnosed with ADHD because the applicant failed a drug test, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit announced April 11.
- Per the suit, the applicant received an offer conditional upon a medical examination and negative drug test. The applicant, who was prescribed Adderall, tested positive for amphetamines. EEOC said the applicant twice contacted International Paper to provide his physician's phone number, but the company did not change its decision.
- EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief. A spokesperson for International Paper said in an email that the company could not comment on pending litigation.
EEOC's guidance specifies that tests to determine an applicant's or employee's current illegal use of drugs generally are not considered medical examination, as defined by the ADA. But the agency has previously taken the position that even when drug tests are permitted, such tests may not be used to discriminate against qualified people with disabilities.
In 2016, for example, EEOC sued an Arizona car dealership alleging the employer rescinded a job offer after a pre-employment test revealed the presence of a prescription drug that was being used to treat a disability despite the candidate stating that the substance was legally prescribed and would not affect her ability to perform the job's duties. The two companies involved in the suit later settled with EEOC for $45,000 and other relief.
The law allows employers, however, to consider the job at hand: In 2019, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a hospital that rescinded its conditional job offer to a woman with fibromyalgia, who took medications such as oxycodone and fentanyl for her condition. The candidate's physician similarly stated that she could perform essential functions, and she had worked in the same role previously without any difficulty. But a physician at the hospital determined that the medications would interfere with the candidate's "mental acuity." The court ruled that the hospital's decision was "job-related, uniformly enforced and consistent with business necessity."
Drug testing persisted even as many jobs went remote during the pandemic, with employers leaning on methods such as point-of-collection tests and remote, video-based tests. Others have relaxed screening for some drugs, specifically marijuana. Perhaps the most notable such example is Amazon, which announced last June that it would no longer include marijuana in its comprehensive drug screening program except for certain jobs regulated by the U.S. Department for Transportation.
Faced with talent shortages, some employers have even chosen to offer drug treatment to applicants who fail an initial screening, as was the case with one Indiana-based manufacturer.