We know disabled people face many barriers when seeking employment. One challenge that may not immediately come to mind is the challenge of onboarding for a job when one uses a caregiver for physical support. On this blog post, one of our regular guest bloggers, Reina Grosvalet, describes her experience taking an employment drug test with caregiver support. Although she faced initial resistance, Reina and her employer partnered together to find a solution that met both of their needs. Reina shares her story as part of her passion to advocate for greater inclusion in the workplace and beyond. Here is what she says:
When seeking employment, disabled people face numerous barriers. One significant barrier is the attitude that disabled people will not be able to work effectively thus are never given a fair chance. Even when efforts are made to educate prospective employers on the skills, talents and abilities disabled individuals have, no traction is made because these prospective employers already have their minds made up that disabled people cannot possibly contribute to their workforce. Then, there is the lack of accessibility. Many companies use inaccessible software solutions or work in buildings that do not provide adequate access for those with mobility impairments. Even when companies are 100% accommodating, barriers arise if a drug test your analysis is required if a caregiver must assist the prospective employee.
Recently, I was offered a second job to perform some work as an accessibility subject matter expert. The company has been immensely accommodating as they are allowing me to work from home remotely 100% of the time since I require the assistance of a caregiver, and leaving the home to commit to a commute is impossible now due to health challenges. Additionally, the company is willing to provide other accommodations so I can perform my job duties such as assistive technology and allowing me to submit materials in a format that works for me. I am happy to say that I started this job mid-August; however, I encountered a significant barrier, and this is the drug test urinalysis.
I arrived at the drug testing site with my caregiver. I was thinking all would go well since my company wrote in the scheduling notes that I required caregiver assistance to perform the urine test. Sadly, I was wrong. As soon as I arrived, I was met with negative attitudes as the staff were immensely confrontational. Right off the bat they stated my caregiver was not allowed to assist me. I started to feel panicky inside because I feared that the staff refusing me the drug test could ruin my chances at getting this job. I breathed deep and tried to calm myself in the face of all this confrontation. I calmly stated that I understood that they needed to ensure the integrity of the test since people do cheat and switch their urine. I proposed having one of their staff present to observe my caregiver and I to see that no urine swap was made. This proposal was a reasonable way to get the job done and ensure the integrity of the drug test. They immediately declined this proposal and continued to state that I would need to go inside the bathroom by myself without caregiver assistance. I informed them that their unwillingness to accommodate me was discriminatory, and they continued to say they were not discriminating against me. Then, they proceeded to ask me how my caregiver would assist me since my caregiver is blind. At this point, they were trying to find every excuse to deny me the drug test. I was getting nowhere with these people. I felt like I would have accomplished more banging my head against a brick wall. Needless to say, I left the drug testing site crying tears of anger over the treatment I received.
Looking For Solutions
I called the recruiter and informed him of what happened, and he expressed he was angry for me. We brainstormed together and I came up with a few good options. Ultimately, I proposed to the employer that I would go to the hospital to get my drug test via a catheter. This way, the test would still be totally secure as there is no way to compromise a drug test that is done via a catheter with a medical professional. Additionally, my caregiver would be present with me since I need my caregiver at all times. My employer was on board with all of this, and he advocated for me to have the drug test taken in the hospital. He got the hospital drug test approved with HR, and then he began making the calls to the hospitals.
He started communicating with the labs in the hospitals, and he was prepared to order the drug test when he suddenly had a better idea. He decided that instead of calling any more third-party drug testing sites, he would call outpatient medical labs such as LabCorp. His thinking was that actual medical labs would be more open to accommodating special needs individuals compared to the third-party drug testing sites. He was right because when he made the call to Lab Corp and explained my situation, they were more than willing to accommodate me. The staff at the Lab Corp stated it would be no problem for my caregiver to accompany me. In fact, the staff were awesome about accommodating my needs. I was going to be able to take the drug test, and the best part about it was that I did not have to endure the catheter after all.
The Drug Test Experience: What Actually Happened?
My employer set up the drug test for me at our local Lab Corp. All I needed to do was walk in and take the test. When the time came to take the test, my caregiver and I went to Lab Corp. We went up to the counter, and I explained who I was. The staff there knew immediately as they remembered speaking with my employer. I was asked to provide a registration number. Once I provided it, my caregiver and I were taken back to an exam room.
While in the exam room, we were provided an explanation about how the drug test would be taken. The technician handed a urinalysis cup to my caregiver, and we were told that no water or soap would be available in the bathroom as that is customary when taking a drug test. My caregiver would help me collect the urine sample, and we were told to leave the cup on the back of the sink. Once all was completed, we could come back into the exam room and wash our hands in the sink there. Also, we were allowed to take diapers and wipes into the bathroom for me as I am completely incontinent.
Because I am completely incontinent and have no control of my bladder and bowels, I took a bottle of water out of my bag, and I drank all of it. Then, we went into the bathroom. My caregiver assisted me by getting the diaper off me and cleaning me up to prepare me to give the urine sample. We lined the toilet seat, and then I sat down. My caregiver handed the urine cup to me because the plan was that I would sit and wait for the urine to come. Once I started peeing, I would hurry up and put the cup under the stream. That part I could at least do on my own.
I sat there for some time. I waited for what felt like forever to pee. Finally, I started going, and I was able to catch enough urine for the test. Once I was done, I handed the cup to my caregiver, and she placed it on the back of the sink per the technician’s instructions. My caregiver assisted me with getting situated, and then we went to the exam room where we were and informed the technician that the cup was on the back of the sink. I was provided a receipt that shows I took the test, and then we went on our way to go and grab some lunch.
If you are caregiver dependent, I strongly recommend that you have your employer order your drug test straight from a medical lab such as Lab Corp and forgo using the third-party drug testing sites. After calling approximately ten third-party drug testing sites and being told that it was against policy to have someone assisting me in the bathroom, my employer gave up and called a medical lab and was successful immediately. He did not want me to have to endure receiving a catheter if I did not need one.
I am not sure where we can start to make third-party drug testing sites accessible to people who are caregiver dependent. I am guessing that we can get some petitions going. I never knew this was a problem until I needed to take a drug test for employment. I am glad I found out about this problem because I want to enact some change so caregiver dependent individuals can get a drug test anywhere without hassle.