Worker with shy bladder syndrome sues former employer

Atlanta man claims he was dismissed after he couldn't urinate for a drug test in the allotted time

An Atlanta man who said he was fired after he couldn’t urinate for a drug test is suing his former employer.

Tom Smith, a 55-year-old former assembly line worker at Caterpillar Inc., said he suffers from paruresis — commonly known as shy bladder syndrome — and was unable to urinate into a cup despite drinking 1.2 litres of water, according to the Associated Press.

Smith was given three hours to fill the cup. He was suspended a day after he was unable to complete the drug test and dismissed a few weeks later.

In the lawsuit, in which Smith is seeking damages and to be reinstated to his former job, states that he subsequently passed a urine test during a visit with a company-appointed doctor. But the employer rejected that test because it wasn’t completed in the allotted three hours. Smith also passed an independent hair test that he paid for himself before Caterpillar let him go.

A spokeswoman for Caterpillar said the drug tests are in place to protect the safety of workers. According to the AP, employers in the U.S. conduct about 45 million drug tests every year, the vast majority done with a urine sample.

Steven Soifer, president of the International Paruresis Association, said the disease is recognized as a social phobia but no government agency has classified it as a disability.

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