United Insurance to Pay $37K for Failing to Hire Recovering Addict

January 24, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The United Insurance Company of America will pay $37,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concerns Craig Burns, a recovering drug addict, who was enrolled in a methadone treatment program since 2004. In January 2010, United Insurance offered Burns a position as an insurance agent in its Raleigh office, conditioned upon Burns’ passing a drug test. After Burns’ drug test showed the presence of methadone in his system, Burns submitted a letter to United Insurance from his treatment provider explaining that he was participating in supervised methadone treatment program and taking legally prescribed medication as part of the treatment. Upon receiving this information, United Insurance notified Burns that he was not eligible for hire and withdrew its offer of employment.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in August 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires United Insurance to conduct training on, among other things, an employer’s obligation to conduct an individualized assessment in determining whether an employee or applicant is disabled under the ADA; appropriate methods of determining whether an employee or applicant poses a direct threat under the ADA; and the obligation to engage in an interactive process under the ADA when an employee or applicant requests a reasonable accommodation. United Insurance will also post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at its headquarters in St. Louis.