Paruresis and How to Deal with the Dreaded Urine Sample

In today’s drug-infested world, employers may ask for urine samples as frequently and casually as they ask for your signature. While some workers may find the biggest issue with this request is having good enough aim not to make a mess, those suffering from paruresis may have a more severe issue. They may not be able to provide the sample at all.

Depending on your individual circumstances, such an issue can result in a host of consequences.

  • Existing employees who refuse to provide a sample may be fired
  • Potential employees who refuse may be overlooked or turned down for the job
  • Correctional inmates, well, they may automatically be deemed guilty of a drug offense, a mark that will go down on their permanent record and can lead to things like lost privileges or solitary confinement

None of the above are positive outcomes, especially if they still happen even after you explain exactly why providing a sample upon request may be difficult if not impossible.

Rather than accept a negative outcome from any scenario that can arise from an inability to honor the request, the International Paruresis Association (IPA) outlines a plan of action you can take to preserve your rights (and even your job).

What you can do:

Talk to your employer, potential employer or other authority in charge and tell them about your paruresis issue. The IPA even has stock letter you can use that helps explain the situation and why the condition legally qualifies as a disability. Check out a copy of the letter:

If a nice chat doesn’t do the trick, the IPA says it’s time to preserve your rights with a series of steps:

  • Get a lawyer (for real!). Go for an attorney experienced in employee law, Equal Employment Opportunity law and disabilities and explain your situation.
  • Get your own independent drug test done at a time, place and manner that is possible for you. Perhaps a hair test can work instead of a urine test.
  • Record the details of your drug test, what happened, and the outcome.
  • Contact your state’s Human Relations Commission. If that is of no help, contact your state’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC).
  • Contact your union grievance representative if you are a member of a workplace union.
  • Ask your primary care physician or other doctor for a signed letter diagnosing you with paruresis.
  • Have your lawyer set up a meeting with your company employee representatives to discuss your hiring, rehiring and the acceptance of the hair test for drug-discovery purposes.
  • Obtain a letter from the EEOC giving you the right to sue.

Drastic? Not really. Putting up with ignorance surrounding the issue or unfair employment practices without muttering a word would be much more drastic. Hopefully you will not have to take all the steps to be treated fairly and honor your rights.