Hospital Sued Over Refusal To Accommodate Applicant With Shy Bladder Syndrome In Drug Test

220px-Vial_examplesThere is an interesting case out of Des Moines, Iowa where Jennifer Conner is suing Iowa Methodist Medical Center over the alleged refusal of the hospital to make relatively small accommodations for her disability: shy bladder syndrome. Conner fears urination in public restrooms and could not complete the required drug test for a position with the hospital.


Connor appeared well-suited for the position of organ transplant financial coordinator at the hospital. She is a recent graduate with a Master’s degree in health care administration from Des Moines University. However, she needed to take the drug test. Since she was a teen, Conner has been diagnosed with anxiety condition paruresis. She would often run water or flush the toilet to allow her to use a public restroom. However, the hospital put her in a room without running water and demanded a sample. One would think a hospital would be sympathetic with a condition of this kind. However, the nurses refused to find an alternative room and made things worse by pounding on the door to tell Conner to hurry up. She even offered a blood test to show that she was not trying to avoid the test but was told to produce the sample by the end of the day or lose the job.

Shy bladder syndrome is considered a disability under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. That makes this record a serious problem for the hospital. She is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, including those for lost wages and benefits, attorneys’ fees, emotional distress and pain and suffering.

This could be a true learning experience and an expensive one. For a minor accommodation, the hospital could have avoided this problem. The question is whether it was made clear to the hospital that they were dealing with a diagnosed disability. I would assume that she made that clear since there is no reason not to disclose the information.

Source: Des Moines Register

27 thoughts on “Hospital Sued Over Refusal To Accommodate Applicant With Shy Bladder Syndrome In Drug Test

  1. Before anyone doubts this, this is a very very real condition.

    Personally I am of the mind that drug tests should be illegal anyways.

  2. I am quite sure she explained the condition to the people. Especially when you take into account that she offered a blood sample. It goes to logic that she would have given a reason as to why this would be another course of testing.

  3. At what point do we draw the line on privacy and employer rights?

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/04/03/science.1234330
    Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep

    http://www.wac6.com/wac6/2013/01/washington-state-to-consider-a-social-networking-password-protection-law.html
    ere is a link to a redline (pdf) that takes the Illinois Act as the baseline and tracks changes in the Washington Senate bill against that. The comparison highlights how the sponsors of the Washington bill are dropping a couple of exceptions that would benefit employers; presumably the Washington legislators have seen the Illinois bill (or something very much like it) and have deliberately chosen to leave out some of the employer-friendly exceptions?

    Among the express exceptions to be found in one or more of the other state statutes:

    email;
    passwords for employer devices;
    actions taken to facilitate investigations of misconduct or illegal behavior.

    I’m noticing different lawyers reacting differently to these laws, depending on whether they feel individual privacy protection should extend to online activities beyond or other than those on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their ilk.

    For instance, Eric Goldman faults the California statute for imprecision; he thinks the California definition of “social media” fails because it can include everything. By contrast, the group of internet lawyers issuing “grades” on this blog generally preferred the statutes that try, like California’s, to protect a broader set of online activities.

  4. http://www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/briefings/data/000172

    A woman in India was found guilty of murder due to brain scan evidence in June 2008, becoming the first person ever convicted in this manner. She had been charged with murdering her former fiancé after eloping with another man and was sentenced to life in prison. A year later, she was released on bail when it was determined that the evidence against her was insufficient, but the reversal did not mention the brain scan that had played a major role in her conviction.

    For the brain scan, the woman, Aditi Sharma, agreed to have an array of electrodes attached to her head, reading the electrical activity of her brain while she listened to statements describing the crime she was accused of committing, as well as generic sentences like “the sky is blue.” According to the developers of the technology, called the Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature Test, her brain activity proved that she had actually experienced the event in question.

    In May, India’s Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for brain scans to be used in court without the suspect’s consent, but in this and other cases suspects have their brains scanned willingly, possibly to avoid harsh police interrogations.

    Brain scan data has also showed up in U.S. courts. A Tennessee man accused of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid tried to use an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain scan to defend his honesty. The judge rejected the brain scan as evidence, concluding that it did not meet the Daubert standard for expert testimony, which requires that scientific evidence be based on reliable and accepted standards. The issue of brain scan lie detection will likely continue to arise in courts, though the developer of one of these technologies admits that his company’s method can’t determine whether someone is “lying or telling the truth on any of specific facts,” only whether they are telling the truth “more overall,” as Alexis Madrigal reports for Wired.

    There are two major companies in the U.S. selling brain scan services for lie detection—CEPHOS and No Lie MRI. They describe their services as “objective,” “unbiased,” and No Lie MRI goes so far as to say its technology is “the first and only direct measure of truth verification and lie detection in human history!” No Lie says it can detect deception with an accuracy of 90 percent, promising 99 percent “once product development is complete.”

    In the Tennessee case, though, the subject failed one of two CEPHOS fMRI tests he agreed to take. He was allowed to take a third test based on the claim that he was tired, meaning the first courtroom test of this technology had an accuracy of at most 67 percent. While CEPHOS seems to focus on lie detection exclusively, No Lie MRI suggests its services for everything from screening new employees to “risk reduction in dating” and improving “how wars are fought.”

    There is clearly money to be made from this technology. Polygraph testing, the current standard for lie detection, is a multi-million dollar industry, serving private businesses as well as government offices including the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense, who use polygraphs for personnel screening as well as investigations. And though fMRI services are much more expensive ($5,000 for a brain scan versus as little as $400 for a polygraph), there are no established ways to “beat” the test, like stepping on a tack inside one’s shoe during polygraph control questions to induce a false physiological baseline.

  5. This is the future for our children and grandchildren. What are we doing to them….

    We are opening Pandora’s box. This is progress? It is lunacy. These are the things the government should be regulating to protect us from. Instead they seek to use them as weapons against us.

    We are building our planet into a prison of servants and slaves. The world our children and grandchildren will grow into, is a vile one to be despised.

    http://news.yahoo.com/just-explain-it–your-brain-on-lying-173120468.html

    In this Just Explain It, we’ll look at how a new way of measuring brain activity may help researchers actually see when a person is lying.

    It’s called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. I know, that’s a mouthful, but one company, No Lie MRI, believes the technology can expose a lie using scans of the brain’s activity. Here’s the theory. When someone tells a lie, their brain has to do more work than when they’re telling the truth – the blood flow increases. fMRI scans expose that extra work. Areas of the brain where blood flow has increased indicate deception and are highlighted with bright colors.

    The company also claims that fMRIs are accurate 90 to 99% of the time. That’s pretty remarkable when you compare that to polygraphs, which perform with about 60% accuracy.

  6. Hubris, bureaucracy, blind allegiance to rules, and good old fashion stupidity == a guarantee of a lawsuit.

    One would think that someone in the medical profession for this hospital would agree to her request for a blood draw, after all, isn’t it the kidneys that filter what becomes urine out of the blood circulatory system?

  7. “the hospital put her in a room without running water and demanded a sample.”

    This should violate a rule of some sort. Filling a cup is more likely to get your hands wet. How is she supposed to wash her hands after?

  8. When I read that nurses were involved in this incident, my first reaction was I pitty the patients handed over to the tenders mercies of these “angels of mercy”. I wish this woman good luck. The hospital and its staff should have know better. It was unnecessarily demeaning behavior as well as a violation of the law.

  9. The most hilarious part to me is that companies think they gain something by pre-employment drug screening. I consulted for a very large retailer who was required to ensure vendors handling personal information (credit card, SS numbers etc) had security at least as good as my client.

    They were huge on the drug screen but several of the vendors were not. I tried to reason with them that anyone looking for a job knows they will be screened & stay clean. A policy that required a UI if there was a reasonable suspicion that an employees performance was impaired makes much more sense. But somehow that is not how corporations think.

    I don’t know if it is simple butt-covering or if they actually believe they are screening out users but they have created a very lucrative business for the clinics while accomplishing nothing of value.

  10. Company I worked for screened over 400 people, so few passed with the hair test, that they switched to a pee test….which every druggie knows how to clean up for.

    Like Frankly said, it makes no sense…

  11. If in belief based opinion(as opposed to factual based opinion) the protection of the “HERD” is well served by all these tests, a question comes to mind.

    Are the tests being mandated to be administered to those whose decisions have the potential to cause great harm or by them???

  12. If these tests are so great why not test every member of Congress and every candidate for Congress? Wait lets test every member of every state legislature in the country and every governor too. Lets make sure we test for any drug that could impair their performance and lets do it every 6 months unannounced. Yes, that’s the ticket!

  13. One sign you picked the wrong job is being made to submit to any drug testing. None Of Your Business does not go over very well in 2013.

  14. James, In many instances I concur. However, there are jobs involving public safety where it is warranted. I don’t know the specics of the job in question here, but it appears to fit the “none of your biz” comment.

  15. James,
    I had to submit to a drug test when I worked for a bank as a trust officer and it was not a fun procedure. I too was herded into a small room in a local clinic, but at least I had a sink in there. To not make a reasonable accommodation for this malady is not only unfortunate, it is downright stupid.

  16. When hospitals cease promoting Big Pharma, cease selling drugs at a high profit, cease over drugging patients, and cease their hypocracy, then perhaps they can condition the hiring of employees upon peeing in a bottle in a dirty room. That would be my opening statement. My first deposition would be at my office in a dirty little room and I would have a big piss jar on the table in front of the hospital superintendent as I took the deposition on video. I would have my secretary pound on the door during the depo and focus on the anxiety appearing on the Superintedents face as he/she stares at that big piss bottle with some yellow fluid in the bottom (not pee). At trial my first witness would be the President of the College where the pltf had just graduated from. And when I requested a recess I would state in a barely audible voice, as an aside to my co counsel, that I needed to take a whiz. Jury can hear that one but not the judge. I would ask the Superintendent what his/her test score was on his/her piss test.

  17. Nick contends, “However, there are jobs involving public safety where it is warranted.”

    This can be done within a framework where there is no ritualistic humiliation, and no systemic accounting of what a person ingests. Behavior will tell you where the problems are, if you are interested in finding it.

    Drug testing used to be just a lazy catch-all. In the age of Torture and Taser, it must be resisted for the Orwellian farce it is. Only the unwinding of the failed drug war will accomplish this.

    Rafflaw, Banks have REAL NERVE testing anyone for anything. At no time has a bank faced its test: grand larceny. No one close to me has recovered from the depression; three lost houses, and saw their 401ks disappear, never to be seen again. Tax debt + credit card debt = net worth. Now, pee in this cup, OR ELSE. I’m not sure what the ELSE is at this point. Chances are you’d at least eat better in jail.

  18. JK,
    The reason for agreeing to the drug test was to obtain a job. Without the carrot of the job that I needed, I would have refused.

  19. About 10 years ago my husband got his dream job after months of extensive interviews with a reputable company, a leader in the industry. During the last interview, when they told him he had the job, all the necessary paper work had been filled out, etc, as an aside, they gave him a plastic cup to pee in. On his way out the door he casually threw the cup into the wastepaper basket and never looked back. His rationale was that he didn´t want to work at a place that was so anonymous that they didn´t already know who the drug addicts were.. He wasn´t even thinking of privacy at the time.

  20. People who work at places like this should anonymously send bottles of pee to the Board Members, bosses, higher ups, on a regular basis. Call it Bladder Patrol. I dont like to pee at the vets office.

  21. Clearly a case of poor training, and the hospital is going to lose this one. The DOT has the most extensive drug-testing protocols in place, and for the most part, the only ones actually sanctioned by law. These rules clearly state that there must be accommodations for people with shy bladder. If you don’t meet these minimal standards then you’re going to lose a lawsuit.

    Also, for general info: the correct bathroom for drug testing has a switch outside the room to turn the water off in the sink (generally off except for people with the shy bladder. You also put “bluing” in the toilet (to keep people from diluting the urine with water from the sink or toilet); and use a special cup that will detect sample temperature and any adulterants in the specimen.

    Still, for the resourceful drug user, you can still buy a clean urine sample and a little battery-heated container for about $20 on the interwebs.

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