South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Employers Have No Duty of Care to Transportation Employees in Drug Testing in Texas
Description The Texas high court held that an employee who claimed he was improperly discharged for failing a random drug test because the testing procedure may have been flawed, had no case against his employer as the drug test followed Department of Transportation rules and he was an at-will employee.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Drug Test; Regulations; Transportation; Duty of Care; Termination; At Will
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Mission required its 520 truck drivers to submit to random drug tests as required by a Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation. Mission employees collected the urine samples, which were tested by outside laboratories. The sample provided by a driver, Solomon, tested positive for marijuana and he was terminated. That information was provided to other trucking companies that he applied to for work. Solomon contended that he had never used marijuana. He contended that the testing procedure was flawed because Mission gave him an unsealed collection container that could have been tainted. The jury awarded him $800,000 in damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, finding that Mission acted with malice. The appeals court affirmed. Mission appealed to the Texas supreme court.
Decision

Reversed. Employers who conduct in-house urine specimen collection under DOT regulations owe no duty of care to employees to conduct the drug test with reasonable care. An employer can terminate an at-will employee for any reason or no reason at all. Hence, an employer is at liberty to discharge an employee for a reason based on incorrect information, even if that information is carelessly gathered. Negligent drug testing is not a recognized theory of liability for employers of at-will employees.

Citation Mission Petroleum Carriers, Inc. v. Solomon, --- SW2d --- (2002 WL 32094508, Sup. Ct., Tex., 2003)

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