Monday, January 26, 2015

Kmart Settles Suit with Applicant who Can’t Urinate

Last Wednesday, Kmart settled a claim filed by EEOC on behalf of a Kmart applicant who was denied employment when he could not produce urine for a pre-employment drug screen.

According to the EEOC's 2013 suit, after Kmart offered Lorenzo Cook an associate position at its Hyattsville, Md., store, he met with a hiring official to complete the pre-employment process. He told that manager that he could not produce a urine sample for a mandatory drug screen because he undergoes dialysis as a result of kidney failure. He volunteered to submit to a blood or hair test. About two weeks later, without discussing possible alternatives to the urinalysis, Cook was informed that Kmart's policy required all new hires to undertake a standard urine test.  The EEOC charged Kmart with an ADA violation for denying Cook employment because he could not complete the urinalysis.

Kmart ended up settling the claim by agreeing to pay approximately $102,000 TO SOMEONE WHO NEVER EVEN WORKED FOR THEM.  It’s an excellent reminder to employers that applicants are covered by the ADA as well as employees and that employers should avoid rigid application of rules like Kmart did. In this case, it appears that the company simply saw Mr. Cook’s inability to produce a urine sample as a failure to complete the pre-employment drug screen, thereby disqualifying him from employment. It is always important that managers and supervisors be sensitive to ADA issues and fully consider possible accommodations. Regular training and refresher training of managers, including those that engage in the hiring process, can help to prevent situations where you are paying people who never even worked for you.