Bell Lexus and The Berge Group Refused to Hire Woman Because of a Prescription Drug She Took for Her Disability, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX - Two Scottsdale, Ariz., companies will pay $45,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC charged that the companies violated federal law when they rescinded a job offer made to an individual after a pre-employment drug test revealed a prescription drug used to treat a disability.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Bell-Arrow Automotive, Inc. and Bell Leasing, Inc. refused to hire an applicant to work at a dealership in Scottsdale because of her disability and her need for a reasonable accommodation. The lawsuit charged that Bell-Arrow Automotive, Inc., doing business as Bell Lexus, and Bell Leasing, Inc., doing business as The Berge Group, had a policy of refusing to employ any applicant who tested positive for substances on a list maintained by Bell Lexus and The Berge Group. Bell Lexus and The Berge Group allegedly extended a job offer to one woman to work as a salesperson, but rescinded the offer when her drug test came back positive.
According to the EEOC, the applicant explained that the substance was legally prescribed to treat a disability; it would not affect her ability to perform the duties of the job; she would provide proof that the substance was legally prescribed; and she was willing to try a different medication. Bell Lexus and The Berge Group refused the offer of proof of the prescription and the offer to change medications, the EEOC said. Instead, the companies refused to hire her.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual's disability or need for reasonable accommodation and requires companies to make reasonable accommodations absent undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Bell Leasing, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:16-cv-02848-DKD) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree settling the lawsuit, Bell Lexus and The Berge Group must pay $45,000 to the discrimination victim. They also agreed not to discriminate in the future against applicants with disabilities and not to administer any drug test to a job applicant prior to a conditional job offer. Bell Lexus and The Berge Group also committed to training their managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel on the ADA and to reviewing their employment discrimination policies.
"While drug testing is permitted in some contexts, it cannot be used to discriminate against people with disabilities," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Communicating with job applicants about drug test results before jumping to wrong conclusions is an important part of the interactive process that is required under federal law."
EEOC Phoenix District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, "Blanket exclusion policies based on drug test results harm job applicants and employers. The ADA requires a case-by-case evaluation of applicants with disabilities to make sure employers assess these applicants on their merits."