Way back on October 4, 2011, we asked whether any of you were ever in a situation where you had to produce a urine sample as part of routine drug testing, or were in a football stadium bathroom with a line of impatient fans behind you who had been drinking beer for hours and were muttering menacingly because you just froze up?
The pressure was on you, that’s for sure. It’s called “paruresis,” also known as “shy bladder” or “bashful bladder.” It is, simply, a bladder that has performance anxiety when the pressure is on, whether in a public situation or with others around. It’s a bummer, but is it a disability for purposes of the ADA if you are not hired because you can’t show a clean drug test because of it? What “major life activity” is substantially limited by possessing a shy bladder – urinating in public? Drinking beer at a Giants game?
The EEOC considered in 2011 “whether paruresis is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), and under the regulations implementing the ADAAA published by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on March 25, 2011,” in an informal opinion letter .
We summarized this letter in our blog post at:: https://employmentdiscrimination.foxrothschild.com/2011/10/articles/americans-with-disabilities-ac/is-having-a-bashful-bladder-a-disability-or-merely-a-problem-at-halftime-at-giants-stadium/
The EEOC came to no definitive or clear conclusion, which led us to say: “Stay tuned because we will no doubt see such a fact situation hit the courts soon enough and learn more.”
Well, the case has arrived – an applicant for a position as a an organ transplant financial coordinator at Iowa Methodist Medical Center failed a job-related drug test and was refused hiring because she could not complete the urine test – yep, paruresis. She sued under the ADA claiming that the Medical Center failed to make a reasonable accommodation for her alleged disability.
She claimed that she had always managed this condition by using single-stall restrooms or by running water to cover the sound of her urinating. Her court filing states that if she "cannot flush the toilet or run the water in the sink, she is generally unable to urinate in a public restroom."
Should, or could, she have been accommodated without undue hardship?
Finally, we may get an answer to these weighty issues. In the meantime, don’t drink too much beer if the water’s running.