Employees Fired After Testing Positive For Prescription Drugs
Companies across the United States have started including some prescription drugs in random employee drug tests, and firing workers who test positive.
For example, Sue Bates lost her job of 22 years as an assembly line worker at Dura Automotive Systems after she tested positive for hyrdrocodone, a drug she had been legally prescribed.
Dura and other employers claim that many medications may hamper a worker’s job performance and even affect job safety. Yet many workers’ advocates object to such summary punishment for taking legal medication.
“I don’t think it should end the way it did,” Bates said. “You tell somebody you lost your job because you’re on prescription medication and they’re like, ‘Yeah, right.’ ”
Indeed, many of the workers fired for taking pain medications had been prescribed those drugs after they were injured on the job. Some of those workers allege that their employers used the drug tests as a pretext to fire them and thereby avoid paying their insurance premiums.
Data from workplace drug testing company Quest Diagnostics shows that employees are 400 percent more likely to test positive for opiates (which includes many popular prescription painkillers) after suffering an injury than employees undergoing tests at the time of hiring.
Yet no one denies that legitimate medication may adversely affect employee performance, or that many people do in fact abuse narcotic painkillers and other prescription drugs. Quoting Dr. Julian Whitaker in their book Side Effects, Kenneth W Thomas, Ron Gilbert and Gerd Schaller write, “There is currently a nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse in this country. In a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, it was revealed that this type of drug abuse had nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 15.1 million from the years 1992 to 2003.”
“This may be the point guard for an important societal issue,” said Robert Cochran Jr., a pain doctor treating three fired Dura employees who are now suing the company.
“How do we address these drugs as a society?”