It is important for employers to understand when they can – and cannot – prohibit employees on prescription medications from working because of legitimate safety concerns, according to two prominent employment attorneys.
Employers who are subject to Department of Transportation regulations and the specific terms of some federal contracts might be required to prohibit employees taking those prescriptions from working, concede attorneys Fiona Ong and Garrick Ross of the law firm of Shawe Rosenthal.
But for most workers, employers still need to engage in the interactive process required to accommodate the needs of those who are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act to see if there truly is a threat, the attorneys stress.
Ong and Ross say factors that may be important are:
- The employee’s actual physical and mental responsibilities. Office work is very different from manual labor, for example. And even with manual labor, there are many different types with many different levels of risk.
- Information from the employee’s doctor regarding their prescribed use of the medication and impact about the employee’s abilities to perform the essential functions of their job. One person may experience effects that another person might not.
- The employee’s actual use of the medication – if they are only taking it at night, for example, that’s different from working under its influence.
- Whether there are alternative reasonable accommodations to the prescription medication.
Employers need to conduct an individualized assessment and get information from the proper medical experts, Ong and Ross explain.