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Court Rules Random Alcohol Tests Do Not Violate ADA

A district court has ruled that random tests for alcohol performed on probationary employees who work in safety-sensitive positions do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The decision in EEOC v. United States Steel Corp., marks the first time that any court has addressed this issue and could serve as a reference point for employers accused of discrimination through their use of medical examinations. The court agreed with U.S. Steel’s argument that the random testing program is job related and consistent with business necessity because it allows the company to detect alcohol impairment on the job, which is a workplace hazard. “Employers can view the U.S. Steel decision as a very important affirmation of their right to take reasonable steps to ensure a safe workplace,” said Robin Shea, a partner at employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith. While the court’s decision should provide a measure of relief to employers in heavy industry, Shea advises that until the case is resolved on appeal, employers should continue complying with the EEOC’s guidance.

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