Bell Lexus and The Berge Group Rescinded Job Offer Based on Woman's Lawful Prescription Drug Use, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - A Scottsdale, Ariz., car dealership company violated federal law by rescinding a job offer after a pre-employment drug test revealed a prescription drug used to treat a disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Bell-Arrow Automotive, Inc. (doing business as Bell Lexus), a subsidiary of Bell Leasing, Inc. (doing business as The Berge Group), maintained a policy of refusing to employ any applicant who tested positive for one of several enumerated substances on a list identified by Bell Lexus and the Berge Group. Bell Lexus extended a job offer to Sara Thorholm to work as product specialist or a salesperson, but rescinded it when her drug test returned positive for a single substance. Thorholm explained to Bell Lexus that the substance was legally prescribed to treat a disability and would not affect her ability to perform the duties of the job. Bell Lexus refused both Thorholm's offer of proof and her offer to change medications.
Such alleged conduct violates Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual's disability or need for reasonable accommodation, and to make such accommodations absent undue hardship. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Bell Leasing, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:16-cv-02848-DKD) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages. EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including training on the ADA, and other relief to prevent further discriminatory practices.
"Even when drug tests are permitted under the ADA, they cannot be used to discriminate against qualified people with disabilities," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Companies need to be mindful that they may need to make exceptions to drug use policies as a reasonable accommodation."
EEOC Phoenix Acting District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, "Employers must maintain responsible hiring practices and be understanding about their employees' backgrounds. A blanket exclusion policy based on drug use does not accomplish that goal, and may cause problems for the employer if it applies such a policy."
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.