Did Pantego firm act too fast by firing worker taking meds?
The EEOC is suing Pantego-based Tideland Electric Membership Corp., claiming it failed to accommodate a disabled employee.
Jeffrey Erdman suffers from a chronic pain condition, but with the help of prescription painkillers, he was able to perform his job as an apprentice lineman. However, when Tideland learned of Erdman’s condition and the narcotic prescribed for his pain, it fired him. Erdman claims the company never gave him an opportunity to seek alternative medication that might control his pain, but without the side effects Tideland feared (but never confirmed).
The EEOC claims Tideland violated the ADA when it fired Erdman before exploring possible reasonable accommodations that would have permitted him to continue working.
Note: The use of legal, prescription drugs can sometime present genuine workplace hazards. However, employers must focus on the effects the drugs have on the employee, not necessarily what kind of drugs the employee is taking. Ideally, employers and employees can work together to find a way to get the employee safely back on the job. This may involve granting time off to try new medications or see how an employee responds to a reduced dose.