There are a lot of reasons why an employee would need to take prescription medications under the supervision of a doctor but that doesn’t mean their legal use of these drugs is not endangering those in the work environment.
Consider a busy warehouse environment where forklifts and other heavy machinery are in constant use. An employee under a doctor’s supervision employed as one of those machine operators may not be able to safely operate a piece of equipment that can prove deadly to co-workers. Many drug warning labels specifically note that driving or operating heavy machinery is not advisable yet those who have a job to do may not think twice.
Ordinary an employee under the influence of illegal drugs would be at cause for termination. But the situation differs when an employee is following doctor’s orders. Most companies are relying on drug testing their employees as part of their safety protocol for ensuring the welfare of all employees. They also order these tests as many insurance companies provide a discount incentive on worker’s compensation premiums.
There have been many companies who have fired employees who tested positive for legal drugs and as a result faced a lawsuit filed by the terminated workers. Companies are advised to not only perform their drug testing procedures but also have a protocol to work with those employees who are medically reliant on certain drugs under a doctor’s supervision.
There are many such cases waiting for their court date and some companies are waiting to see the verdict before making changes to their drug testing policies. However, in the interim, employees testing positive may still face immediate dismissal without being given a chance to explain or provide medical proof.
Employees who are taking legal medication under the guidance of their doctor should be able to approach management about their situation and find alternative duties until a time when they can be safely put back on their regular job. This may not be the case for some employers who will continue to terminate and ask no questions or give negative consequences to employees for being upfront about their medical situation.