Is it legal to fire someone because you thought that they were on drugs?

I was on drugs when I went to work one day. I was already rushing to get there so after I got settled in I went to the bathroom. I was training someone that night who was very experienced. I went through some things with her. I showed her where things were, went through the menu and the computer. I asked her if she was okay while I went into the bathroom again to put on mascara, since I was running a little late I had not put any on. There was nobody sitting at the bar as it was very slow at this point. She was OK and I was certain she’d be OK. When I got out of the bathroom the manager was there and asked to speak to me in the back. He then started to go on saying that him and some other employees had some concerns about me, I went to the bathroom 3 times since I was there and that one of those times my friend followed me in. I didn’t even know that she was there. She came in to use the bathroom. He was implying that I was doing drugs. I let him know i was not on drugs, I get accused of it often because of my ADHD, anxiety disorder and depression. I have had a psychological evaluation I explained that I was currently in treatment. He told me that it didn’t matter they were going to have to let me go. I asked him that if there were concerns why was I not addressed before this? I had no warning, ever. Had I known that there were concerns I would have tried to fix them. He said there were other things but when I asked him what they were he couldn’t give me any, I offered to take a drug test at my cost and also randomly. I told him I really could not lose this job I really wanted to stay there and I would do whatever to make it right to give me another chance. He still fired me. I have thought about going in there and talking to the owner so he can hear both sides of the conversation and try to get my job back. However, do I really want to work for a guy who allowed his manager to fire me over such a ridiculous accusation in the first place? I feel like what they did was wrong, humiliating and discriminating.

Asked on June 5, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unless you had a written employment contract which, by its terms, in one way or another prevented your termination for this reason, then as a general matter, you could be terminated if they "thought" you were on drugs. When there is no written employment contract to the contrary, all employment is "employment at will" and an employee at will may be terminated at any time, for any reason whatsoever--including a belief (whether or not correct--the belief does not have to be accurate) that the employee uses drugs.
That said, IF all the following are true--
1) You were not in fact on or using illegal drugs;
2) You do have medical diagnoses for some or all of ADHD, anxiety, or depression;
3) You made your employer aware at any point before termination that you had these conditions and that they can cause you to appear as if you are on drugs when you are not, and asked for the employer to "accommodate" you for your conditions; and 
4) Your behavior at work (i.e. the employer accommodating you) is not too disruptive or harmful to their business
--then in this case, their firing you due to behavior caused by a medical condition may be illegal disability-related employment discrimination and you may have a claim for reinstatement and/or monetary compensation. If the believe this is the case, contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unless you had a written employment contract which, by its terms, in one way or another prevented your termination for this reason, then as a general matter, you could be terminated if they "thought" you were on drugs. When there is no written employment contract to the contrary, all employment is "employment at will" and an employee at will may be terminated at any time, for any reason whatsoever--including a belief (whether or not correct--the belief does not have to be accurate) that the employee uses drugs.
That said, IF all the following are true--
1) You were not in fact on or using illegal drugs;
2) You do have medical diagnoses for some or all of ADHD, anxiety, or depression;
3) You made your employer aware at any point before termination that you had these conditions and that they can cause you to appear as if you are on drugs when you are not, and asked for the employer to "accommodate" you for your conditions; and 
4) Your behavior at work (i.e. the employer accommodating you) is not too disruptive or harmful to their business
--then in this case, their firing you due to behavior caused by a medical condition may be illegal disability-related employment discrimination and you may have a claim for reinstatement and/or monetary compensation. If the believe this is the case, contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency.


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