Fired Worker, Martha Parker, Blames Cough Medicine For Failed Drug Test
When you have a cough, it's only natural you'd take cough medicine so you can make it through the workday.
That's exactly what Martha Parker, a bus driver for the city of Atlanta, says she did this past week. Yet on Tuesday, she was notified she was being fired from her job of 20 years, according to a report by Fox 5 of Atlanta.
The decision to terminate Parker (pictured above) came after she took a drug test at work, and traces of the cough-suppressant codeine showed up.
"I never abused the drug," Parker reportedly said at a hearing before the Atlanta Civil Service Board. She testified that she took the medicine as treatment for her cough. But when asked to provide proof, Parker said that she had misplaced her medicine bottle. She was, however, able to hand over a copy of her prescription for the cough syrup.
But for the city of Atlanta, the specter of endangering its bus passengers was too much.
"We need to apply this, in my view, 100 percent to ensure that we are accountable to public safety and to our employees' safety," Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza said during the hearing.
He added that had Parker notified her superiors of her medication before her test, she would have merely been given a reduced workload until she was better. For her part, she says that she had no idea that she was doing anything wrong, and is appealing her termination with the city civil service board, which has the power to overturn the ruling.
The phenomenon of drug test false positives has been the focus of the sports pages of late. San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Guillermo Mota just completed a 100-game suspension this week after testing positive for Clenbuterol, which he says he consumed while drinking a cough syrup. He says that he failed to read the bottle's ingredient list.
Team manager Bruce Bochy sounded a note of sympathy for his player's situation.
"What can you do, condemn the man for that? No, I wouldn't want to do that," he said.
What can workers do if they find themselves in the very predicaments Parker and Mota claim to be in?
Drugs such as codeine or pherazine aren't found in over-the-counter cough syrups, but prescription cough medicines can contain these ingredients and will show up on routine drug tests as narcotics.
And the drugs are not the only danger items for drug tests, all of which should be disclosed to employers before testing, AOL Jobs employment law expert Donna Ballman said via e-mail.
"If you've eaten anything with poppy seeds (muffins, bagels, etc.) then disclose that as well," said Ballman, who is also the author of "Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired." "Poppy seeds can cause false positives for heroin!"
Do you think Martha Parker was fired unfairly? What do you think of employer drug tests? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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