Company Settles ADA Suit Alleging Violation of Law’s Medical Inquiries, Confidentiality Clauses

A drilling company will pay a former employee $59,000 to settle allegations that it asked him illegal questions about his medical condition and violated his right to confidentially under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on Tuesday.

According to the EEOC, Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (H&P), a Tulsa-based drilling contractor, forced a derrick hand at H&P’s Alice, Texas location off the job because he was taking prescribed medications to treat chronic pain associated with a degenerative disk condition. The company ultimately fired the derrick hand, even though he had been deemed fit to return to work by his doctor, the EEOC charged.

More broadly, the EEOC singled out two practices of the company that it said violated the ADA.  First, it had engaged in unlawful disability-related inquiries and medical exams of employees and had required all employees to disclose prescribed medications and over-the-counter drugs to management.  Second, the company’s “essentially barred from employment workers who took prescribed medications that H&P deemed capable of impairing job performance, regardless of whether the employee was actually affected by the medication, and even when the employee was cleared to work on the medication by his or her doctor.”

“The EEOC expects this settlement will encourage employers to review their policies to ensure that they do not violate the ADA’s restrictions concerning post-offer medical inquiries and examinations,” said David Rivela, senior trial attorney at the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “The ADA restricts covered employers from requiring medical examinations or conducting disability-related inquiries of employees — unless such examinations or inquiries are shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Read more of the EEOC’s announcement.



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