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October 13, 2011

Shy Bladder Syndrome to Get Out of a Drug Test?

Filed under: ADA & Disability,EEO8:17 am

For as long as employers have required drug tests, there have been drug users who have tried to beat them, or avoid them all together.  Have you heard the excuse that the individual can’t urinate on cue?

Before you dismiss this person as a drug user trying to get out of taking the test, take note: in a response to a citizen’s letter, the EEOC indicated this situation could constitute a need for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA).  The condition in question – Paruresis – is commonly known as Shy Bladder Syndrome.  A person afflicted with this anxiety disorder is unable to urinate in public places or in close proximity to others.

Under the ADA, an individual has a disability if a physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.  With the recent amendment, it is significantly easier for an individual to meet this standard.

There are certainly individuals who have Shy Bladder Syndrome.  There are also certainly individuals who would say they have it in order to get out of a urine drug test.  So, what can you do?

Jonathan Segal, who blogs for the Duane Morris Institute suggests establishing drug-testing policy that states when an individual is unable to provide a urine specimen for testing, he or she must undergo a hair specimen test as an alternative.

The big picture message here is to be aware as an employer of your responsibilities under the ADAAA.  The goal in the process is not to determine whether the employee has a disability; it is to have a dialog with the employee to accommodate their needs.

From an interview with Segal:

“Regardless of whether someone’s depression rises to the level of a disability, make a reasonable accommodation. It’s not the end of the world. A lot of times that’s good business, to try to help an employee without getting into an overly legalistic approach. It’s really important for employers to make it clear that they’re making the accommodation without making a determination of whether there’s a disability.”

For more, read Segal’s blog here and Don Tennant’s blog .  Also, read the “informal” letter from the EEOC here.

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