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Woman's suit contends drug test discriminates

She says a kidney ailment kept her from producing an adequate sample and prevented her from regaining her former job.
By JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writer
published September 6, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - A Brooksville woman who says she was refused employment because she couldn't urinate into a cup has sued the Tangerine Cove assisted living facility and its Largo owner, saying they discriminated against a disabled person.

Carmalita Early, 27, was denied employment because she suffers from end-stage renal disease, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Hernando County Circuit Court last week. She is demanding that Tangerine Cove, at 307 Howell Ave. in Brooksville, and its owner, Atlantic Community Care Inc. of Largo, pay unspecified damages of more than $15,000.

In 2002, Early had been reapplying for the same certified nursing assistant job she had held previously at Tangerine Cove, said her attorney, Angela Outten of Palm Harbor.

Early had quit because she was being treated for kidney disease, Outten said. When Early started feeling better, she reapplied for her job, even though she was still undergoing regular dialysis and other treatment.

Early had been interviewed, hired and scheduled for orientation and work the following day by Tangerine Cove's director of nursing, whose name is given as "Maryann" in the lawsuit.

The problem began when Early went for her employee drug test later that same day, according to the suit. Since she has kidney problems, she couldn't provide enough urine for a credible test. Early attempted to make amends by getting her doctor to prescribe drug testing through blood work.

When Early told the director of nursing that she couldn't provide the urine sample because of her disability, the director told her she could not attend orientation or be hired, the lawsuit states.

Early asked the director if she could instead undergo a blood test, or even try another urine test, the lawsuit states. But the director told her "they were out of testing kits," according to the lawsuit.

Maryann Koromi is listed as the administrator of Tangerine Cove, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Koromi said Thursday that she could not recall the situation and referred questions to the Largo company that manages the assisted living facility, Homestead Health Management Group Inc.

Representatives from Homestead and Atlantic Community Care, both listed at the same Largo address, did not return several phone calls from the Times.

Early had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigated and decided that the company and the assisted living facility had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, said Outten, Early's attorney.

"She reapplied for the job when she thought she was physically able to do it," Outten said. "She's a unique person to be going through this."

Early did not return calls from the Times seeking comment.