How to Fight Shy Bladder Discrimination and Loss of Job

After the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2008, shy bladder syndrome or paruresis qualified as a disability under this act. No longer a joke or grounds for termination, paruresis receives the protection of the government, including freedom from discrimination and the allowance of reasonable accommodation. Employees need to know that their shy bladder and difficulty in taking drug tests is protected.

Coworkers talk about coworker behind his back

Paruresis Defined by the International Paruresis Association (IPA)

The International Paruresis Association (IPA) is first to note that there’s still not enough information about paruresis to accurately define the origins of the disability. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does classify paruresis as a social phobia with contributing factors of genes, physiology, and environment. Paruresis can also occur due to a chronic pelvic floor dysfunction. As more studies are completed on shy bladder syndrome, we will learn more about this disability.

How Does the EEOC View Shy Bladder Syndrome?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released an opinion letter in 2011 outlining how paruresis can be a valid ADA claim. In the letter, the EEOC explains that paruresis qualifies as a disability because it influences bladder and brain function, which can impair major life activities. Also, how the employee is treated due to this impairment can play into the ADA claim.

How ADAAA Protects Employees with Paruresis

The ADA definition of disability has not changed despite the amendments made in 2008. However, ADAAA did manage to expand what is considered major life activities, which now includes major bodily functions. Since paruresis impairs bladder and brain functions, which are major bodily functions, paruresis qualifies as a disability under the ADA.

Expansive Coverage of “Substantially Limits”

In previous years, the idea of “substantially limits” demanded a high standard of what was considered to be a severe impairment of a worker’s abilities. Now, a disability doesn’t need to be severe to be considered “substantially limiting.” The EEOC also points out that a condition would be judged based on whether it substantially limits a major life activity in the absence of a treatment plan. Furthermore, this protection is extended to people with impairments that might be dormant or episodic if it would limit a major life activity when active.

Regarded to Have a Disability

The protections of the ADAAA and the EEOC trigger when an employer takes negative action against an employee that they regard to have a certain disability. The only times that these protections do not apply are if the impairment is both transitory and minor. The ADAAA focuses primarily on how an employee was treated due to the impairment and not the employer’s beliefs about the impairment. Regardless of whether a disability is real or perceived, adverse action against an employee due to a perceived impairment will likely end in the employee being protected for being “regarded as” having an impairment.

Examples of Illegal Responses to Paruresis

Todd received pre-approval for a job as long as he passed an urine drug screening. Due to a health condition that makes urination difficult for him, Todd replied to the company, explaining that he couldn’t give a urine sample but would be willing to offer a blood or hair sample. He was rejected for the job. And the company was legally in the wrong since they did not initiate any interactive process to choose a reasonable accommodation.

Minerva applied to a job and was given a job offer contingent on passing a drug test. Her serious health condition made giving a urine sample impossible so Minerva suggested that she take a different drug test to complete the requirement. The company refused the alternative and did nothing to accommodate Minerva’s ADA-recognized disability.

How to Fight Paruresis Discrimination and Loss of Job

As soon as you lose your job due to your shy bladder syndrome or are rejected for a new job because of the same problem, you need to pursue all your legal options. Most situations have a small window of time where a claim or lawsuit can be filed against the employer. All the states in the United States view paruresis as a disability, which means that employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to you.

1. Seek a lawyer

Not all lawyers are familiar with advocating on behalf of employees with disabilities so it’s crucial to choose a lawyer with experience in the area. Due to technology, no matter where you live you can have access to a quality lawyer. A good lawyer can be the difference between a favorable outcome and a massive loss.

2. Know your rights

The EEOC demands that employers who are knowledgeable about an employee’s disability must take necessary steps to offer a reasonable accommodation. This means that an employer should make changes to the job application process and work environment or tasks to ensure that an impaired employee has equal access to all employee benefits. When an employer refuses to offer an alternative drug testing option to an employee with paruresis, the employer violates the ADA.

3. Take your own drug test

In order to prove that you were willing to be tested and clear of drugs is to be tested for drugs independently of that employer. The documentation from the test around the same time as you would have taken the test for the employer will be good evidence in your favor. Be sure to get the test done at a reputable and large medical practice to offer further credibility to the situation. The best drug test to have done is a hair test because it shows results for the past 90 days.

4. Record the details of your employer’s drug test

As time lengthens from your experience with the urine drug test, memory will soften what happened. Write down the interactions, comments made, and your feelings during the situation. Consider whether or not you felt intimidated or if there was no privacy.

Common Problems

  • No referral to a doctor for shy bladder diagnosis
  • Demand that donors drink more water
  • Detain donors for more than three hours
  • Placing an opposite gender collector in the public restroom with the donor
  • Timing how long it takes for giving the urine sample

Details to Record

  • Urine collector’s name
  • Supervisor’s name
  • Testing company’s details

Be aware that private employers are held to a different standard than Federal agencies. However, you still may have remedies for your situation. The best way to explore those options is to speak with a disability lawyer.

5. Pursue medical diagnosis

If you don’t already have medical proof of your diagnosis of paruresis, then you will need to visit your doctor to receive the necessary documentation. Best case scenario is to already have a medical diagnosis of paruresis before being asked to take a drug test. However, you can still seek to obtain the medical paperwork to use to argue your legal case before the court.

6. Meet with your employer

In some situations, you may be required to meet with your employer to communicate that they have discriminated against you due to your disability. If you do need to do so, have your lawyer attend with you and speak for you. This will cut down on emotional and unhelpful interactions.

7. File an EEOC complaint

Your lawyer will guide you in filing a complaint with the EEOC for disability discrimination. Once again, your lawyer knows exactly what information should be included to best serve your goals. When a Right to Sue letter is received, you will be permitted to file a lawsuit. In some cases, employers may seek arbitration or mediation. Your lawyer will know which scenario will be most helpful in recovering your damages.

Experiencing paruresis discrimination in the workplace is unnecessary, and employers should offer reasonable accommodation to you. When you suffer termination due to their lack of interactive process to discover an accommodation for you, you may have a case under the law. Reach out to an employment discrimination lawyer today.

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