UTU, SMWIA ask EEOC to probe BNSF medical policy

March 23, 2012

On behalf of members employed by BNSF, the UTU and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) have asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate the railroad’s new medical reporting policy, which the organizations say is discriminatory and violates federal law by requiring workers to provide highly personal medical information.

BNSF is demanding employees report off-duty medical procedures and issues. This highly personal information is protected, and BNSF has no statutory right to view the information, the UTU and SMWIA said in  their complaints.

The discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC allege BNSF is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by requiring, since Jan. 1, 2012, that employees provide the railroad with doctor’s notes, diagnostic test results and hospital discharge summaries.

“Each day that BNSF’s policy remains in effect, more employees face the likelihood of having their statutory rights violated,” the UTU and SMWIA told the EEOC. “And once an employee’s rights are violated – that is, once BNSF has been notified of the away-from-work medication condition or event and has obtained the employee’s statutorily-protected medical information – there is no way to undo the violation.”

Additionally, said the UTU and SMWIA in their complaint, the medical information that BNSF requires employees to provide is information likely to reveal a disability and is neither job related nor consistent with business necessity, and is likely to result in BNSF obtaining genetic information. Moreover, the BNSF policy discriminates against women affected by pregnancy and/or related medical conditions.

Other labor organizations have filed a similar complaint with the EEOC.