Archive for June, 2011

Business Law: Drug use in the workplace

Monday, June 13th, 2011

By James Jorgensen, Times Business Columnist

Increasingly, employers are attempting to address drug use in the workplace. Usually, this begins with pre-employment drug testing and extends through employment by means of a drug and alcohol policy.

The employer’s response is limited by the Americans With Disabilities Act. In general terms, a current user of illegal drugs is not protected by the ADA. However, a recovering or former drug user is protected. The challenge to employers is confirming the dividing line between the two.

Consider these facts: An employee voluntarily entered an inpatient drug rehabilitation program. After 30 days, he was released from the program with a note from the drug counselor that the employee’s prognosis for recovery was “guarded.”

When the employee sought to return to work, the employer said he would be assigned to a different job. The employee refused the new position, quit and sued the employer under the ADA.

The issue was whether the employee was a former or recovering drug user. If he was, he was protected by the ADA. The employee claimed he was, pointing to the 30-day program and that he wasn’t using drugs when he attempted to return to work.

The court disagreed. It rejected an absolute rule on how long the employee must be free from drug use before he is deemed to be a “former drug user.” Rather, the court held that under the ADA, an individual is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs if the drug use was sufficiently recent to justify the employer’s reasonable belief that the drug abuse remained an ongoing problem.

This is a case-by-case analysis. In the present case, the drug counselor’s guarded prognosis of recovery led to the employer’s reasonable belief that drug use was still a problem. Based on this fact, and the short 30-day period, the employee was still a current drug user and was not protected by the ADA.

Opinions are solely the writer’s. James Jorgensen practices law at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso.

DATIA Chairman Warns of New Wave of Global Drug Abuse

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — At the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association’s (DATIA) Annual Conference at the Doral Resort and Spa, DATIA Chairman, Dr. David M. Martin, in his opening address predicted that a new wave of drug abuse would be hitting America. He cited a report that will be released this month in the Journal of Health Affairs of a seven-year study tracking broadband access and hospital admissions for substance abuse. The study reported that for every increase in broadband access there was a corresponding increase in hospital admissions for prescription drug abuse while admissions for alcohol, heroin and cocaine remained the same or decreased.

“What this means is that America is facing an exponential epidemic of drug abuse never before seen in the recorded history of human addictions,” said Dr. Martin. He went on to state, “Powerful prescription drugs are available overnight on the Internet or you can walk into a “Pain Clinic” and get your drug of choice instantly. No longer is the drug pusher a thug in the dangerous part of town, he is a medical professional working on the Internet or in a pain clinic.” Dr. Martin pointed out that the medical marijuana and drug legalization lobby are creating a dangerous endorsement of drug abuse that is starting in America and will spread to Europe, China, and worldwide within the next year. The cost to society and the economy will be enormous, as the results will be increased accidents, sick time, hospital admissions, absenteeism and lower productivity globally.

New Florida law requires drug test for welfare recipients

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Tallahassee Bureau — Thousands of the state’s poorest Floridians will have to take a drug test if they want to qualify for welfare assistance, under a new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott Monday.

The idea, plugged by Scott and the GOP-dominated Legislature, is that drug tests will root out welfare recipients who are using public dollars to buy drugs. But Democrats and advocates for the poor say the requirement could violate individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy, and the American Civil Liberties Union is likely to challenge the law in court.

“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott said in a news release. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”