Discrimination and Harassment in the workplace due to my disability

  1. Hello, I suffer from a chronic illness protected by the ADA. I have been a nurse for 20 years and have no disciplinary issues during my entire career. I returned to work after surgery and was submitting my doctor/leave notes to the HR department on my day off, and was pressured to take a drug test. I complied and reminded them of the medications I am prescribed. I explained that am taking pain medications on some occasions due to chronic pain on days I am not working, and see a specialist for my treatment.

    My employer did a general toxicology screen (not a panel screening), which revealed all medications I am taking. I was forced to explain each and every medication I am taking and what each medication is taken for. Since then I have been questioned on several occasions if I am alright, or able to work. They ask me about my walking, arthritis in most joints, and workplace injury to my knee and hip. I was asked to take another test, and when I said I would only agree to a panel test. They told me I would have to leave my shift and was escorted out. I continue to experiance such problems at work, and I have been accused of being on pain medication at work. I take prescribed pain medication on some days I am not working, but it will return positive on a panel screen for 3-5 days after last taken. There are no state employee rights, EEOC takes several months to review any complaints, and HR does not view this as harassment since they are leading such actions. I have no idea what to do.

    I worry that the political climate and ongoing opioid epidemic will allow employers everywhere to discriminate, harass, or terminate any employee who suffers from chronic medical issues, or may need short term pain medication for injury/surgery.

    Thanks for any advice.
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    About VAnurse0441

    Joined: Oct '17; Posts: 3


  3. by   caliotter3
    I am sorry to hear that you are going through this. I would normally advise to think about getting another job, but it is too likely that you would not be able to find another job, or that you might encounter more of the same. If you can, strive to become part of the woodwork. Just come in, do your work, say nothing, and pray for a day that no one hauls you into HR for another round. I am certain you need the income, so you just may have to put up with this until they find another employee to treat this way. Best wishes on achieving better health.
  4. by   rkitty198
    Really? Is this what we advise our fellow nurses? Just keep quiet and do your job? This is harassment. If I was your co-worker I would advise you to write/contact the government Americans with disabilities act website. If they have no due cause to do drug screens and you have kept a log of what you feel is harassment I would support you as your colleague.
    I would make sure you have your information on what days they have requested the studies and for what reason, emails, etc. If in fact they have no due cause or are not following HR policy then they are violating your rights.
  5. by   rkitty198
    Are you part of a union? If they accuse you of taking pain medication at work do not respond. Have them give it to you in writing and then you respond in writing or always! Always! Have a co-worker you trust with you when you are called into even the least formal conversations related to your health. It is none of their business when and how you take your medications. They are violating HIPAA in attempts. They cannot take a urine screen without your consent either. Get the policy in writing.
  6. by   VAnurse0441
    Thanks for the info. I live in a "right to work" state. I'm trying to find the policy about employee medication use with contacting HR directly. It is very hard to find our written policies. I also feel like they are violating HIPAA, but unless one of them admits to discussing my medical condition or accessing my medical records, I can't prove anything. I'm afraid to even give too many details here because we once had a nurse on our unit who would comb message boards whenever she heard some juicy gossip about someone at work, and try and find posts with similar dates and details.
  7. by   amoLucia
    I know it might be a cost, but how about a quick consult with a lawyer well versed in Disability Law?
  8. by   VAnurse0441
    Thank you everyone for your advice. I have contacted a lawyer as advised.

    Since my lawyer made contact with my employer, I received a notice that a complaint was filed against me with the board of nursing. The complaint contains some fraudulent statement about what was done and said. One of the people present informed me that the account of the events described were inaccurate and certain things were said that were not said. What I need some real advice on is about that person. My lawyer wants to ask that person for a statement, and they agreed when I asked that person. Unfortunately, that person has not returned the phone calls from my lawyer or answered my text messages. This is a really big deal, what should I do?

    Thanks in advance :-)
  9. by   chare
    You should limit asking advice to your lawyer, as that is what you are paying he or she to do. Further. let your lawyer handle all communication regarding this matter, regargless and whether it's asking a coworker for a statement or communicating with your employer.

    In addition, you should not discuss this with anyone other than your lawyer and significant other. This includes communicating on this, as well as other "anonymous" internet message boards, as they tend not to be nearly as anonymous as we believe.

    Best wishes as you work through this issue.