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The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a municipal employee had no claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for being suspended from safety-sensitive duties after he failed to report for a required random drug test (Leaumont v. City of Alexandria, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 17930 (5th Cir., No. 14-30330, Sep. 18, 2014)).
Patrick V. Leaumont was employed by the City of Alexandria, La., as a bus department transit manager, which included performing safety-sensitive functions, and was subject to random drug-testing under the city’s substance abuse policy.
On July 10, 2012, the city’s human resources department notified Leaumont that he had been selected for random drug-testing that day. Leaumont failed to report for the test. The following day, he contacted HR and said that he had forgotten to take the test. He took the test that day, July 11. Nonetheless, the city considered Leaumont’s failure to report for the July 10 drug test a “refusal to test,” and Leaumont was notified that he was to be removed from safety-sensitive functions due to his refusal to test. HR informed Leaumont that he would be eligible for reinstatement only after a substance abuse professional evaluated him and deemed him eligible to return to work and after he provided a negative drug test sample.
Leaumont passed the evaluation and drug test and by Aug. 3, 2012, was reinstated to perform safety-sensitive duties.
On July 12, 2013, Leaumont filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in Louisiana state court, seeking compensatory damages and an injunction expunging his personnel records of any reference to the July 10 refusal to test.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana entered judgment in favor of the city and Leaumont appealed.
Deemed ‘Not Qualified’ Due to Refusal to Test
The appeals court found that Leaumont’s claim could not succeed under the ADA because he was no longer a “qualified” individual for the safety-sensitive job he had held. ADA disability discrimination claims can succeed only if the plaintiff is qualified for the position and can perform the essential functions of the position.
Leaumont was deemed not qualified once he failed to appear for the original random drug test, because employees regulated by U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations are required to report for drug or alcohol tests within a reasonable amount of time as determined by the employer. DOT regulations forbid employees who refuse to submit to required drug tests to perform safety-sensitive duties.
The city’s drug-testing policy states that “[a]n employee who has been notified that he or she has been selected for testing shall be required to report immediately to the collection site.” The appeals court agreed with the lower court that although requiring an employee to report to the testing site “immediately” after being notified of the test may be unreasonable under certain hypothetical circumstances, it is “not unreasonable to require the employee to report within the same day he is notified.” The court stated that Leaumont’s argument of “unforeseen circumstances” as a legal exception to reporting for required drug-testing is unsupported by any case law. “Even if it were, such an exception would not apply here, as Leaumont concedes he merely ‘forgot’ to go to the test,” the court said.
HR departments should address the duration of time workers have to report for drug-testing in their organizations’ substance abuse policies, and also ensure managers and employees are trained on the rules.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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