• Cullen and Dykman LLP Blogs

  • Archives

  • Kmart Pays $102,048 to Settle Case Involving Discriminatory Urine Test

    Kmart will pay $102,048 to resolve a discrimination case filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Lorenzo Cook (“Cook”), a Maryland resident who alleges Kmart refused to offer him a job due to his inability to provide a urine sample.

    More specifically, according to the EEOC lawsuit, after Kmart offered Cook a position with the company, Kmart officials asked him to provide a urine sample in connection with its mandatory pre-employment and new-hire drug screening process. Upon receiving this request, Cook advised the hiring manager that he could not provide the required urine sample because he undergoes dialysis for his kidney disease. In the alternative, Cook requested a reasonable accommodation in lieu of the mandatory urine test, such as a blood test or hair test. In response, the Kmart manager allegedly stated that she needed to discuss the accommodation request with her colleagues. After about two weeks, the Kmart manager allegedly informed Cook that Kmart’s policy required all new hires to submit to a standard urine test and that his accommodation request was thereby denied. Cook was subsequently denied employment at Kmart.

    After first trying to settle with Kmart through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Kmart Corporation; Sears Holdings Management Corporation, Civil Action No. 13-cv-02576) on Cook’s behalf, claiming that Kmart’s actions and subsequent denial of employment violated Cook’s rights under the American with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), which specifically prohibits employers from refusing to hire individuals due to a disability. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified employee, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business. In the lawsuit, the EEOC sought equitable relief providing for equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for Cook.

    More than a year later, Kmart has decided to settle the suit with the EEOC and is scheduled to pay $102,048 in monetary relief to Cook. In connection with this settlement, Kmart is also enjoined from taking adverse employment actions on the basis of disability. Kmart’s policies are also being revised to reflect these changes and will now specify the availability of reasonable accommodation for individuals in the company’s drug testing processes. Furthermore, Kmart is also required to train its store managers, assistant managers and human resources employees on equal employment opportunity laws enforced by the EEOC, Kmart’s ADA policy and reasonable accommodations as they relates to drug testing.

    The takeaway from this case is simply that employers who conduct drug testing processes should review their policies and revise them if necessary to reflect the availability of reasonable accommodations for applicants and/or employees. Employers should also train individuals managing these processes to ensure that they are up to date with ADA and EEOC policies.

    If you or your institution has any questions or concerns regarding employment related issues, please contact James G. Ryan at jryan@cullenanddykman.com or at (516) 357 – 3745.

    A special thank you to Lauren Dwarika, an intern at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for her assistance.