Prescription use of narcotics raises questions by employers

Q&A with Charlie Plumb

published in The Oklahoman | September 24, 2013

While it’s not unusual for disabled workers or employees returning to work after a medical absence to be taking prescription medication, does an employer have the right to prohibit employees from working while taking certain legally prescribed medications, such as narcotics? That’s the question posed to labor and employment attorney Charlie Plumb in a Q&A with The Oklahoman.

“While employers have a duty to safeguard the workplace and monitor job performance, a recent federal court decision suggests they don’t have the authority to automatically ban the use of certain medications or ignore a physician’s statement about an employee’s ability to return to work,” said Plumb.

That doesn’t mean employers shouldn’t look into legitimate issues involving an employee’s use of prescription drugs. “Whether and how an employee continues to work while on medication should be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specific medication at issue, its effects, and the employee’s specific job responsibilities,” he said.