The EEOC filed a notice of appeal on April 22, 2013 concerning the dismissal of its suit challenging U.S. Steel’s random alcohol testing program for probationary employees. A federal district court in the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled on February 20th that U.S. Steel’s random alcohol testing program did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. EEOC v. U.S. Steel Corp., No. 10-1284 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 20, 2013). For a complete discussion of the court’s decision, see the article on our website, “Random Alcohol Testing Policy Found Job-Related, Consistent with Business Necessity, Did Not Violate ADA” (Mar. 18, 2013).
Employers who conduct random alcohol testing – particularly those in industries where employees perform dangerous job duties – are watching this case closely. Many employers utilize random drug and alcohol testing as a safety measure in dangerous workplaces. Alcohol tests differ from drug tests, however, because they are medical tests under the ADA, meaning that they must be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” The EEOC argued that because alcohol tests are medical tests under the ADA, they are permissible only when there is individualized reasonable suspicion of a particular employee, and that generalized concerns about safety do not satisfy the ADA’s requirements. The federal district court disagreed, finding that the extremely hazardous environment at U.S. Steel justified the testing, and that random testing serves a “unique deterrent effect.” The court observed that “to survive a hazardous work environment that includes molten hot coke, toxic waste products, and massive moving machinery, employees must be alert at all times. No level of intoxication is acceptable on the job.”