A friend of mine who is an RN was denied a job due to her chronic pain and being on a delayed release medication. Her PM clinic did not have a conflict with her working while being on this medication. The doctor at the employee health center wanted her off the medication and sent a letter stating the PM clinic would no longer prescribe any narcotics to her even though they always monitored her and did drug screens.
They told her it was a risk even though she was on this delayed medication at a low dose and was not receiving any high or mood alteration. The medication she is taking is the only thing that is helping her. So what is ethical or legal in this situation? Can they refuse to hire her based on this? Is there anything she can do? She is seeking a home visit position and wondering if she should disclose this or just get off her meds for a time? What would her best action be and would this be considered a disability?
Dear Donna replies:
Dear Supportive Friend,
It is always challenging to respond to a question like this without knowing all of the particulars. For example, how was it discovered that your friend is taking the narcotics? Did she inform the employer on an interview or did it turn up in a drug screen? Was the decision not to hire made before, during or after she had an employment physical? All of these factors can have some bearing.
I contacted a human resource expert, Fred DiCostanzo, RN, on this. Here is what he had to say: “It certainly sounds like the nurse might have a disability discrimination claim, but the situation needs to be thoroughly investigated. I recommend that the nurse contact an attorney or the EEOC to discuss her options.”
The EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm. Find your nearest office and contact them. While you can consult any attorney who deals with this type of issue (EEOC may be able to make a recommendation), you should consider consulting a nurse attorney in your state. If finances are an issue, you can contact the Legal Aid Society in your area to see if they might be able to help. At the very least, your friend should get advice from any of the above-mentioned resources on what her rights are in the workplace and how she should handle future employment situations like this one.
Regarding how your friend should handle this on future interviews, see a previous Dear Donna column on that subject: (http://news.nurse.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014140904001#.VCBPe2d0yM8)