Fired LA County Firefighter Claims Disability Discrimination

A Los Angeles County firefighter who was terminated following a positive drug test has filed suit claiming the results were a false positive due to a lawfully prescribed medication he was taking for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Joseph Allen was fired on May 17, 2022 following a random test on April 14, 2022.

When informed the test was positive for methamphetamine, Allen informed supervisors that he had never used methamphetamine, but was taking prescription amphetamines for ADHD. Quoting from the complaint:

  • On or about April 20, 2022, Mr. Allen informed his supervisors of his test result, his disability, and his prescription medication.
  • He informed his supervisors that he believed that the result was erroneous.
  • His supervisors informed him that someone from the Department would likely get in touch with him about his test result and that he would have an opportunity to explain his disability and/or medical condition and his prescription which was the likely cause of the false-positive drug test result.
  • On or around April 21, 2022, Mr. Allen contacted Defendants and inquired about the possibility of retaking the drug test and inquired about using other drug testing methods as a reasonable accommodation.
  • Defendants informed Mr. Allen that he had no other options and that his only option was for a retest of the same urine sample obtained on April 14, 2022.
  • On or about May 4, 2022, Defendants informed Mr. Allen that the result of the re-test indicated that he was positive for “amphetamines-methamphetamines.” However, the exact breakdown of the retest was not provided to Mr. Allen.
  • Between May 4, 2022, and May 17, 2022, Mr. Allen waited for someone from the Department to contact him about his test result where he would provide proof of his prescription. Mr. Allen was never contacted by anyone in the Department.
  • On or around May 17, 2022, Mr. Allen was discharged from his employment.
  • For persons taking amphetamines for ADHD, there is a high likelihood of drug test results coming back as a false positive for the illegal substance of methamphetamine. Urine drug tests are more likely to result in a false positive for methamphetamines for persons taking amphetamines. There are more reliable drug testing methods that accurately distinguish between amphetamines and methamphetamines.
  • Defendant’s drug testing policy had a discriminatory impact on those with disabilities and/or medical conditions, specifically, those with ADHD taking amphetamines to treat ADHD.
  • As a result of the disparate impact of Defendant’s drug testing policy, Mr. Allen has been displaced or otherwise removed from his position.
  • Defendants discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiff by wrongfully terminating Plaintiff’s employment as a result of failing to engage Plaintiff in a good faith interactive process and failing to provide a reasonable accommodation.

The suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges disability discrimination and failure to accommodate a disability under California law. Here is a copy of the complaint.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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