Why Do You Need a Medical Review Officer (MRO) for Drug Testing?

19 Oct 2016

...No MRO Leads to EEOC Lawsuit.......

Why Do You Need a Medical Review Officer (MRO) for Drug Testing?

You need a medical review officer so you will not get sued and lose the lawsuit.  You need an MRO so you will not have ADA or EEOC violations leading to fines, punitive damages and more lawsuits.

DOT regulations for drug testing require a Medical Review Officer (MRO).  Many states and state law programs require a Medical Review Officer (MRO) for compliance and to assist in challenges to denial of workers compensation claims and unemployment claims.

You best practice is to have an MRO for all drug tests so they are all reviewed and you have quality control and so that all results are reported consistently and remain in one database.   

The EEOC filed suit in September of 2016 against an employer - M.G. Oil Company (doing business as Happy Jack’s Casino).  The EEOC challenged the basis of the employer’s drug testing policy.  An applicant tested positive, no medical review officer (MRO) reviewed the drug test result.   The employer withdrew the offer of employment.  The positive was for Opiates – Hydrocodone.  The applicant actually had a legal prescription for hydrocodone for neck and back pain. The EEOC sued Happy Jack’s under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for actual and perceived disability bias. 

The applicant was not given the opportunity to explain the use of the opiates or to present evidence of her prescription drug use or evidence of her underlying impairment.  The EEOC also took issue with the employers drug free workplace policy that required all employees (safety-sensitive and non-safety-sensitive) to disclose all prescription and non-prescription drug use.

"Employers cannot refuse to hire someone simply because she takes prescription drugs," said John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for EEOC's Chicago District Office. "Ms. Mullaney would have provided Happy Jack's with all the information that it needed to assure itself that the drugs were lawfully prescribed. There is nothing happy about Happy Jack's ignoring the information before its eyes. To the contrary, it is very, very sad."

Why you can’t require all employees to disclose all prescription and non-prescription drug use.

Refusing to hire a person with chronic pain because they can’t pass a drug test will get you in trouble with lawsuits, EEOC violations and ADA violations.

In another case in September 2016, the EEOC sued ApolloMD and Georgia Hospitalists Group after the defendants fired Dr. Alunda Hunt for his use of narcotic pain medication to treat chronic pain.  According to the EEOC’s suit, the defendants regarded Dr. Hunt as disabled as there was no indication that the prescription medication impacted Dr. Hunt’s ability to do the job or maintain his medical license. It is also alleged that the defendants had no real dialogue with Dr. Hunt regarding the nature of his condition and/or the impact of his prescription drug use before terminating his employment. The EEOC is seeking damages and injunctive relief.

It is very risky for an employer to have a blanket policy against any use prescribed medication particularly for non-safety sensitive workers. In addition, the use of a medication may not effect an employee’s ability to safely due his or her job. In the case against ApolloMD and Georgia Hospitalists Group, Dr. Hunt provided ApolloMD with a note from his doctor indicating that he was being treated for a medical condition with narcotic pain medications. According to the doctor's note, Dr. Hunt was compliant with his treatment and was not experiencing any negative side effects.  A few days later, Dr. Hunt was removed from the work schedule and his contract was terminated. EEOC charged that Dr. Hunt was unlawfully fired because of an actual disability and because he was perceived to be disabled due to his use of legally prescribed narcotic medications.

Drug testing and prescription drug use are both serious business for employers.  You need to have compliant drug free workplace policies in order to avoid liability, EEOC complaints and ASA violations.  Training of your human resource (HR) team and workplace supervisors is critical.  National Drug Screening can be of assistance.