One of the intended consequences of federal environmental and discrimination laws is to allow activists groups and personally aggrieved individuals access to other peoples’ money and no-charge legal service. Worse, federal legal action sometimes threatens the safety and rights of a larger body of citizens to satisfy presumed grievances by a small number of people.
Individuals, small business owners and public institution administrators rarely fight government-promoted lawsuit charges in court because federal agencies have more resources and the arbitrary power to force compliance of their demands. It’s cheaper to agree to settle. The usual feeble response is: “We deny any wrongdoing.” Often it’s true, but the defendants pay for serious charges, not necessarily for having done something wrong.
For example, recently the New Hanover Regional Medical Center settled a U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability discrimination charge under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Two qualified worker applicants weren’t hired and one employee was put on unpaid leave for a month because of hospital drug policies. According to a Wilmington StarNews report the claimants were taking “legally prescribed narcotic medications.” (link)
Hospital officials insist that their first priority is “patient care and safety.” We assume this concern drives NHRMC policies. Further, it makes sense to me that these local officials— responsible for patient care and safety—would be best qualified to establish these policies than would remote federal agency staff. However, EEOC bureaucrats presume to know better. Federal lawyers apparently believe that employment of people taking narcotic medications has a higher priority than patient safety at the hospital.
I recall that some prescribed and even over-the-counter drugs have warnings that users should not drive or operate equipment. Are we to accept that this precaution should not apply to hospital workers? Yet, the NHRMC must now modify its patient safety policies to accommodate a few medicated applicants and workers because of mandates by federal lawyers.
Thus, regional EEOC operatives fined NHRMC $146,000 for “damages”; required revision of its alcohol and drug abuse policies, and other “medical assessment” and “medical examination” policies. Hospital officials must provide managerial training on the ADA prohibition against disability discrimination; post notices about the lawsuit and employees “rights”; and give the EEOC periodic reports.
In my opinion, this “settlement” is overreaching at best and totalitarian at worst. And it could negatively compromise the primary mission of the NHRMC.
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