Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Answers to Questions On Veterans' Rights, Right To Copy of Handbook

This week I'm answering questions posted on VOW to Hire Heroes Act Fixes Stupid Legal Loophole for Military and Stupid HR Stuff: Can Anyone Tell Me the Point In Not Giving Copies of Contracts and Policies?

Targeting Veterans For Drug Testing
What if an employeer gives an disabled veteran more than one urine test a month and then marks the last form as possible suspesion/cause. Does a disabled veteran have any recourse for legal action? this employer also has me under a arbutrary agreement for employment.

Hi David. If you're being targeted for more tests than coworkers because you're a disabled veteran, that may well violate your USERRA rights, as well as the ADA. If, however, you are being tested under the company's random drug testing policy the same as any other employee, then I don't know of any law that treats veterans differently than other employees.

Drug testing laws vary by state, and drug tests are extremely unreliable. The National Workplace Institute says this:
Commonly used drug tests yield false positive results at least 10 percent, and possibly as much as 30 percent, of the time.
Unreliability also stems from the tendency of drug screens to confuse similar chemical compounds. For example, codeine and Vicks Formula 44-M have been known to produce positive results for heroin, Advil for marijuana, and Nyquil for amphetamines. Other substances known to cause false positives include Nuprin, Contac, Sudafed, certain herbal teas and poppy seeds.
Although more accurate tests are available, they are expensive and infrequently used. And even the more accurate tests can yield inaccurate results due to laboratory error. In October, 1990, the National Institute on Drug Abuse launched an investigation into the widely used federal drug testing procedure after learning that a government- certified laboratory incorrectly reported workers had tested positive for illegal methamphetamine when in fact they had been using over-the-counter cold or asthma medicines.
Some state laws and union contracts allow random testing  no more than once a month. Otherwise, it must be for good cause shown. Many times, an employee who has a workplace accident must submit to a drug test. Some states prohibit or limit drug testing in the workplace. A recent summary of state drug testing laws is here.

Employer Won't Give Copy of Handbook

What can you do if your former employer refuses to or cannot provide you with a copy of the employee handbook you signed. I ask this because I was fired without a written warning and remember that it was specifically stated in the handbook that a written warning is it be given before termination. 

Hi Jessica. This is one of the stupid things that companies do all the time, and I don't get it. Why on earth have a handbook you want employees to comply with, and then not give them a copy? How can they comply if you won't let them see it? Better yet, may employers make employees sign saying they've received the handbook, but won't give them the handbook. If that's your situation, I think it's outright fraud on the part of the employer.

Some states require that employers give you a copy of anything you signed if you request it. If you're in one of those lucky states and you signed a paper from the handbook itself, you may be legally entitled to a copy.

Otherwise, there's no law that I know of requiring employers to give you a copy of their own handbook. However, it will be tough for them to utilize key defenses to some employment laws if they don't. For instance, if you don't report sexual harassment under a known employer policy, it's a defense to a sexual harassment claim. Where the employer won't give you a copy of the handbook, you could argue that the policy was not a known policy.

I think any employer that won't give employees a copy of the employee handbook is idiotic.

As always, talk to an employment lawyer in your state if you think your employer broke the law.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.