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EEOC Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Alleges Employee Fired For Taking Prescription Medication

Wrongful termination document on wooden table with pen and smartwatch, termination of employment and resignation concept

On November 6, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Lonza America, Inc. (Lonza). On November 6, 2020, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Lonza America, Inc., Case No. 2:20-cv-00311, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Before initiating court proceedings, the EEOC attempted to resolve case through its voluntary conciliation process. Unable to reach an acceptable settlement agreement through conciliation, the EEOC has invoked its statutory right to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through litigation. In this article, our Marion County, Florida attorneys for wrongful termination victims explain the EEOC’s allegations of wrongful termination against Lonza.

Legal Protection Against Wrongful Termination

The EEOC has filed the disability discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on behalf of a former employee of Lonza, Michael Ingram (Ingram). Under the ADA, discrimination against disabled employees is an unlawful employment practice. When an employer fires a disabled employee on the basis of disability, the employer has wrongfully terminated the employee in violation of the ADA. The EEOC alleges that Lonza violated the ADA by wrongfully terminating Ingram because of his disability.

EEOC Claims Wrongful Termination

Lonza manufactures chemicals and ingredients for the pharmaceutical industry. In November 2003, Ingram began his employment with Lonza. In 2012, Ingram’s doctor prescribed him an opioid pain medication to treat a back injury that resulted from a car accident. Since at least 2013, Ingram has received treatment for opioid dependency through his participation in a Medication Assistance Program. Thus, according to the EEOC, Ingram is a recovering opioid addict. Ingram’s opiate dependence treatment has included taking an opioid medication, which has been prescribed by a doctor, in the form of Suboxone. Under the ADA, the use of a drug taken under the supervision of a licensed health care professional is not considered an illegal use of drugs. Based on these allegations, the EEOC claims that Ingram, as a recovering opioid addict who takes prescription medication under the supervision of a licensed health care professional, has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.

In July 2017, Lonza subjected Ingram to a random drug screen for illegal drugs and alcohol. Ingram tested positive for a controlled substance. Lonza immediately suspended Ingram for allegedly violating company policy based on his positive test for a controlled substance. Lonza mandated that Ingram attend counseling through the company’s Employee Assistance Program and with a clinical psychologist. Ingram informed Lonza that he had a prescription for the opioid medication, Suboxone, and that he was participating in a Medication Assistance Program. Ingram provided Lonza with a copy of his prescription and a statement from his doctor advising that Ingram was under his care.

Despite learning of Ingram’s participation in a Medication Assistance Program, and that Ingram was taking an opioid medication prescribed by a doctor, Lonza refused to return Ingram to work and mandated that Ingram discontinue use of the prescribed opioid medication. Consequently, Ingram was forced to request leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and short-term disability benefits. From July 2017 to November 2017, Ingram repeatedly requested to be allowed to return to work. Lonza, however, refused to return Ingram to work.

In November 2017, Ingram tested positive a second time for a controlled substance. After the second positive test result, Lonza determined that Ingram had not discontinued the use of the prescribed medication, Suboxone, as mandated by Lonza and terminated Ingram’s employment in December 2017. After Lonza fired Ingram, it replaced Ingram with another worker.

Attorneys For Wrongful Termination

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal employment laws making discrimination, harassment, and retaliation unlawful employment practices. As part of the EEOC’s statutory mission to remedy unlawful employment practices in the American workplace, Congress has authorized the EEOC to bring lawsuits on behalf of employees who have been subjected to unlawful employment practices, including disability discrimination. In a press release issued by the EEOC on November 6, 2020 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, Delnar Franklin-Thomas, stated that “employees who are in treatment for opioid addiction and lawfully using opioid medication are protected by the ADA.” “When employees under treatment for opioid lose their jobs,” Mr. Franklin-Thomas explained, “it can have a chilling effect on the workforce and the addiction recovery community at large.” Mr. Franklin-Thomas added that the EEOC “is committed to enforcing the ADA and its protection for opioid addicts.”

Ocala, FL Wrongful Termination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida wrongful termination attorneys have represented wrongful termination victims for more than two decades. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your rights as a wrongful termination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida wrongful termination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take wrongful termination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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