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Use of Medical Review Officer Helps Employer Beat Claim of Discriminatory Termination

In the case of Roman v Leggett and Platt, Inc. the plaintiff was subject to random drug testing as a result of his role in a safety sensitive position at the company. He tested positive for the barbiturate phenobarbital after a random test, and claimed the result was a false positive caused by his use of the anticonvulsant Dilantin which he used to treat epilepsy. However, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) that the company used to review positive drug test results stated that Dilantin does not cause a positive test for phenobarbital.The plaintiff’s employment was then terminated.

The plaintiff then brought suit in a Georgia federal court, asserting that his termination was due to his disability since he was let go after his employer learned that he had epilepsy. The court, however, ruled that the positive drug test was a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason for discharge and found no evidence that the company had retained other employees where the MRO stated that their prescription medication would not cause a false positive.

The plaintiff also attempted to argue that his employer’s drug testing policy did not explicitly mandate termination for a positive test, and instead stated:

“Violators are subject to immediate and severe disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment for a first offense”

The court rejected his claim that the employer’s drug testing policy was applied to him in a discriminatory manner, finding that his classification as a safety-sensitive employee occurred prior to the employer becoming aware of his epilepsy, therefore, the testing for barbiturates was permissible. The court went further and stated that it may not “second-guess the validity of a workplace policy that prohibits employees from working with minor amounts of phenobarbital in their system unless that policy is enacted or enforced in a discriminatory way.”

This case demonstrates how important it is to use an MRO to review all positive drug tests. The employer was able to base its employment decision on scientific expertise that the prescription medication being used by the employee could not have caused a false positive result, allowing the court to find in their favor.

Hire Image urges all of our clients to include the use of an MRO in their drug testing policies. To learn more about policy design implementation see our blog post:

“Hire Image Guide to Getting Your Drug Testing Program Off to the Right Start”

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