The Texas Supreme Court held in
Mission Petroleum Carriers Inc. v. Solomon
that a common-law duty should not be imposed on a trucking
firm that uses its own employees rather than an
independent lab to collect urine samples for drug
This finding was based on U.S. Department of
Transportation (DOT) regulations that govern the collection
of urine samples and provide an employee an opportunity to
challenge a false-positive test result, according to report
by Texas Lawyer.
These regulations impose rules for administering the drug tests and authorize fines for companies that do not follow the rules, Justice Wallace Jefferson said in the court’s opinion. Further, an employee can refuse to sign the custody and control form, which must be signed before a drug test can be verified, according to the opinion.
Mission randomly selected Roy Solomon, a truck driver working out of its Beaumont, Texas terminal, for drug testing in April 1997 and used one of its own employees to collect a urine sample. After Solomon tested positive for marijuana use, he was fired by Mission and, with Solomon’s consent, disclosed the test results to other trucking companies, which declined to hire him. The action was in accordance with DOT regulations that require a prospective employer to review an applicant’s test results from previous employers for the two years before the date of the job application.
At Solomon’s request, Mission sent a
second urine sample to a different laboratory for analysis
and the results were the same, testing positive for
However, Solomon continued to deny using marijuana
and subsequently passed an independent laboratory’s
hair-follicle test designed to detect use of the drug.
The hair analysis, however, was done 84 days after the
urine test, and Solomon conceded, did not confirm or refute
whether he smoked marijuana around the time Mission
collected his urine sample.
Solomon initially sued Mission for
defamation but later added claims for business
disparagement and negligence. Solomon argued to the 9th
Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court that Mission
failed to follow DOT protocols, including requirements
that the employee and collector must be present when the
container for a urine sample is removed from a sealed kit
and the use of a collection site where access is
restricted. The terminal restroom, where employees were
sent to collect samples, was used by all the employees
and was cleaned only twice a week, the 9th Court noted in
The state high court justices disagreed
on whether Solomon’s claim against his former employer
implicates Texas’ employment-at-will doctrine.
“If a duty of care were to arise every time the harm
to an employee transcends the employment agreement, the
employment-at-will doctrine would be undermined because an
employer’s basis for termination would have to be justified
by a reasonable investigation, which is contrary to the
doctrine,” Jefferson wrote.
The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling reverses a 2001 decision by Beaumont’s 9th Court of Appeals.
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