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Employee in drug treatment? Consider DATWA before firing

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in Firing,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

Do all your supervisors and HR staff understand how Minnesota’s Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA) works? If not, train everyone now or face the possibility of punitive damages.

Recent case:
David Wehage worked for ING when he failed a company-requested drug test. He immediately went into drug treatment, where he remained at his doctor’s advice for almost a year, using up his FMLA leave. He was fired when that leave expired.

He sued under DATWA, alleging that the law prevents discharge for absences related to drug treatment after a positive drug test. Because the HR professionals who terminated Wehage never consulted DATWA, and relied instead on his expired FMLA leave to fire him, the court said Wehage could also ask the jury for punitive damages. (Wehage v. ING Bank, No. 07-CV-1852, DC MN, 2008)

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