Kmart pays over $100,000 to settle discrimination lawsuit over inflexible drug testing policy

The Americans with Disabilities Act is all about reasonable, flexible standards that have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. If an accommodation is "reasonable" under the law, and it doesn't inflict an undue burden on the employer, the employer has to provide it.

Kmart learned that lesson the hard way when they paid $100,000 to settle an ADA lawsuit over a drug testing policy that all new employees were required to take. According to the complaint, after Kmart offered Lorenzo Cook a job as a customer service associate in a Maryland store, it directed him to take a standard urinalysis drug test as required by company policy. Cook, who suffers from end stage renal disease, advised Kmart that his condition made it impossible for him to produce urine. Even though Cook was willing to take the test by any other means (such as a blood or hair test) the company insisted that there was no alternative to the urinalysis test and rescinded its offer of employment.

The E.E.O.C. brought suit alleging that Kmart's refusal to provide an alternative drug test amounted to illegal discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires covered employers to provide disabled employees - and, in some cases, prospective employees - with a "reasonable accommodation" for their disabilities. The E.E.O.C. argued that Kmart failed to provide Cook a reasonable accommodation by insisting on the urine test.

Kmart and the E.E.O.C. reached a settlement in which Kmart has agreed to pay Cook $100,000 in non-economic relief, plus $2,048 in lost wages. Kmart has also agreed to a two-year consent decree, the terms of which require it to revise its policy, provide training to managers and orders Kmart not to take adverse against its workers on the basis of disability. Under the terms of the settlement Kmart continues to deny that it violated the ADA.