It is lawful for an employer to threaten termination of employment if you continue to take a prescribed medication?

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It is lawful for an employer to threaten termination of employment if you continue to take a prescribed medication?

I work at a restaurant chain. It employs a waiter who just celebrated 2 years clean and sober from drugs and alcohol due to him working a 12 step program. A co-worker brought to his attention that they suspected me to be intoxicated on shift. Truthfully, I was not intoxicted but I have been taking a medication over the last 5 months now. Mind you on this day, as every other, I took this medication at its designated time and it is prescribed and monitored by a doctor. The next day I was brought into the office with the owner, as well as the locations manager and spoken to about being intoxicated on the job. I explained to them that I was not under the influence of any illicit drugs or alcohol, however I had taken a legally obtained and prescribed medication that morning. This medication is Suboxone. I have already been on track tapering down my dose with my doctor over the past 2 months and had planned on being off this by the mid-end of next month. I was told that I was to be given one chance with this and that I needed to be off this medication completely and immediately if I was to keep my employment. I attempted to explain that process was already underway and this medication is overseen by my doctor since. Further, they were risks of stopping against DR recommendation an that I would not be able to come to work the following day in good health if I stopped this medication abruptly as they were asking me to do. Yet, there was no change in their request. Instead, I was preached at about needing to believe in a higher power, work a 12 step program with a sponsor and actively go to meetings if I was to maintain a healthy life. Also, it was heavily implied that I needed to do these things to maintain my employment as well. They explained they believed there was a difference in my appearance that day compared to the others. I guess people believe what they want, not in the facts. I need this job so I said that I would attempt to do this. I asked for a few days off to detox, still against the advise of my doctor. At first I was told no. Then I was given 2-3 days which at that point when I returned to work I would need to sign a contract with the employer stating I would not be on any medications, alcohol or drugs. Also, that I would be on time and I (the only employee told this) am not allowed to take cigarette breaks or go to my car in between shifts when working a double. Specifically, I was told told by the owner,

Asked on September 9, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

If you are impaired at work, it is lawful to threaten to terminate you or even terminate you: an employer is not required to employ someone who is impaired, since employee impairment exposes them to several risks (e.g. of liability, if due to impairment, you injure another; to damage to their property, if you knock something over; of a worker's comp claim, if you injure yourself; of loss of business, if you do a bad job and cost them customer). The employer is not required to expose itself to those risks, even if the impairment is due to legal medication. So the only real issue is whether you are or are not impaired at work, and if you are, this is legal.


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