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Can an employee sue their employer after an unwelcome drug test result?

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The trial court ruled in the petitioners’ favor. It found that they did not owe the respondent a legal duty.

The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. There was a legal duty to use reasonable care in collecting and processing biological samples between third-party entities and the employees tested if the employer required the worker to submit to the test as a condition of employment, the appellate court said.

Employee loses before Supreme Court

In the case of Houston Area Safety Council, Inc. and Psychemedics Corporation v. Guillermo M. Mendez, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment and ruled in favor of the petitioners, which were the third-party entities collecting or testing samples.

Because the respondent was an at-will employee, his employer could decide to terminate him for almost any reason, with the petitioners having no control over this decision, the Supreme Court said. The petitioners had no recommendation for the employer about what to do with the results and had no direct relationship with the employee tested, the Supreme Court added.

The Supreme Court considered the factors in the case of Greater Houston Transportation Co. v. Phillips (1990). It balanced the risk, foreseeability, and likelihood of injury against the social utility of the petitioners’ services and the magnitude and consequences of the burden that a legal duty would impose on them.

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