Company pulls man’s job offer after learning he takes anxiety medication, feds say

A stainless steel manufacturer offered a man a job before refusing to hire him after learning he takes prescription anxiety medication, federal officials said.

By pulling his job offer, Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC, headquartered in Alabama, discriminated against the man because of his mental health condition, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency sued the company, accusing it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Meanwhile, the man was capable of working as an entry operator in the company’s melt shop with or without an accommodation — but one was never offered, a complaint states.

Now Outokumpu has agreed to pay nearly $50,000 to settle the EEOC’s lawsuit, the agency announced in a Dec. 19 news release.

McClatchy News contacted attorneys representing the company for comment on Dec. 21 and didn’t immediately receive a response.

“Before disqualifying an applicant or employee based on a disability-related medication, an employer should determine whether use of the medication poses an actual, not merely possible, safety issue,” Marsha Rucker, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, said in a statement.

“This requires consideration of the most current medical knowledge or best available objective evidence, often including discussion with the applicant or employee or the prescribing physician, to determine how the medication affects the applicant and whether it actually causes any unsafe side effects during working hours,” Rucker added.

The case

The lawsuit stems from when the man was offered a job after interviewing for a position at Outokumpu’s stainless steel producing facility in Calvert, according to the complaint. This offer was pulled in September 2020.

The man was upfront about his condition, which affects his sleep, thinking, concentration, time management and work, the complaint states. Because of this, the man was prescribed Xanax for his condition, according to the EEOC.

After receiving the job offer, his hiring was contingent on passing a physical exam and a drug screening conducted by a third-party company, the Occupational Health Center, the EEOC said.

Before the drug screening, he told the health center he takes Xanax, according to the complaint.

Then, Outokumpu “relied” on the health center’s opinion as to whether the man could perform the job safely while being prescribed the medication and rescinded his job offer, the complaint states.

“An employer is required under the ADA to ensure that any post-offer, pre-employment medical screening is an individualized assessment of the applicant, even when that exam is carried out by a third-party medical provider,” Bradley Anderson, the district director of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, said in a statement.

“Employers may not rely on assumptions to medically screen out qualified applicants, but, instead, must consider whether a reasonable accommodation would permit the applicant to perform the job,” Anderson added.

The lawsuit settlement

In addition to paying $49,000 to settle the lawsuit, Outokumpu agreed to take action in an effort to prevent future disability discrimination, the EEOC said.

This includes revising policies or creating new ones and providing relevant training to managers and HR employees, according to the release.

Additionally, any medical providers the company works with must now be trained on ADA requirements, the agency said.

Outokumpu is a global company with more than 900 workers in Calvert, according to the EEOC.

Calvert is in southern Alabama and located about 35 miles north of Mobile.

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