ConocoPhillips Found In “Willful” Violation Of Oklahoma’s Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act
A federal district court has found ConocoPhillips in “willful” violation of the Oklahoma Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act (Okla. Stat. tit.40, §§551-565. (the Act).1 A Jury then awarded the employee $583,413. An additional negotiated amount for attorney’s fees significantly increased that award.
Finding the company in willful violation of the Act, the Court adopted the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s definition of “willful” as used in the Act as “not only conscious, purposeful violation of the Testing Act, but also deliberate disregard of the law by those who know, or should have known, of the requirements of the Testing Act.” 2
This is a case that has been in contention for more than four years in both state and federal court. The employee was fired for failing a breath test. In state court the company was found in violation of the Act for using a non-licensed test facility. Here, (workersxzcompxzkit) the issue was the employer’s failure to provide the employee with the required information in its policy. The policy failed “to include in either its “Alcohol Plan” or its “U.S. Substance Abuse Policy” information about “[t]he available appeal procedures, remedies and sanctions.” Such information was required by Section 555(A)(11) of the Act.
The court also concluded that strict compliance with the requirements of the Act is required. Quoting a state court decision on the subject, the court said: “. . . this court declines to make the standards less than mandatory by grafting into the Act a wholly foreign concept of substantial compliance.”
Employers in Oklahoma would be wise to learn and incorporate the requirements of the Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act. 1 Estes v. ConocoPhillips Case No. 05-CV-445-GKF-PJC (N. Dist. Okla., January 21, 2009)); Judgment entered February 13, 2009. 2 Citing Estes v. ConocoPhillips, Co., 184 P.3rd 518, 527 (Okla. 2008) Author: Atty. Bill Judge
Bill Judge is an attorney who, for the past 24 years, has concentrated his practice on research, consultation, and management training related to the legal issues of substance abuse in the workplace and in our nation’s schools. Attorney Judge, JD, LLM can be reached at:708-334-8010.
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