Court Finds that Random Alcohol Tests Don’t Always Violate the ADA

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Last week the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania made a surprising ruling:  a company can show that random alcohol test are “job related and consistent with business necessity.”  In the first case of its kind, the federal judge rejected the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidelines.  Before this ruling, the traditional wisdom, garnered from the guidelines was:

  • You can test a person for alcohol only if you have reasonable cause or suspicion, backed by objective evidence that the person is under the influence while at work;

  • You can discipline a person for the “effects” of being under the influence of alcohol on the job:  tardiness, absenteeism, safety violations, coming to work impaired, etc.;

  • Alcohol tests are “medical tests” under the ADA and may not be random tests; and

  • Medical testing of employees of any kind must be based on an individual analysis, which is antithetical to the concept of random tests

The Court rejected this traditional wisdom and concluded that random alcohol tests may be used if the company can show that the test is job related and consistent with business necessity.  The EEOC will likely appeal this decision and employers should continue to follow the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidelines until this case is definitively resolved.


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