BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Former Capital Area Transit System (CATS) employee John Cutrone filed a lawsuit against the bus system alleging the bus company used “false positive” drug tests to retaliate against him after reporting mismanagement within the company.
According to the filing, Cutrone began working as a comptroller, which is an accounting role, in the fall of 2019 but began noticing incidents involving potential waste or mismanagement in 2021. He reported it to CATS.
The lawsuit states that in January of this year, Cutrone was selected for a “random” drug test by a human resources employee. Court documents say that Cutrone was a “non-safety-sensitive employee” and that he wasn’t required to take a drug test.
The lawsuit says CATS violated its own drug testing policies by making Cutrone take the test.
The suit also says that the drug test was mishandled as the “collector” would not let Cutrone disclose the medications he was taking and did not witness the test being taken. Cutrone was only asked to pee in a cup, and he alleges that appropriate chain of custody was not followed after he submitted the sample.
According to court documents, Cutrone took the test on Jan. 19, but the sample was not received by the company for processing until 12 days later on Jan. 31, and there is no record of where the samples were in between that time. The samples were tested on Feb. 2 and showed that Cutrone tested positive for amphetamines, which the lawsuit says is because he is prescribed to take Adderall for his ADHD.
The results were sent to CATS, the human resources representative and the CATS human resources director all on the day the results were tested, according to the lawsuit. Cutrone was told he “failed” for three drugs — amphetamines and its subvariants amphetamine and methamphetamine.
He asked for copies of the results but was told he could not have them. The lawsuit says Cutrone volunteered to pay out of his own pocket for a second test, which came back positive for amphetamines but negative for methamphetamine. He also provided a doctor’s note for his prescription.
On Feb. 18, Cutrone was placed on administrative leave. On Feb. 23, a CATS board meeting was called. The lawsuit alleges board members were shown the results of Cutrone’s medical information and test results before that date. When the meeting started, a board member asked what the session was about during a prestation of Cutrone’s information then left the room, saying it was unlawful.
At a March 15 board meeting, an agenda item about Cutrone was added to the agenda, per his lawsuit. He wasn’t made aware so he could attend or insist that his information only be discussed in a closed session that the public and media could not attend. A CATS employee allegedly said they were “97% certain” he used drugs.
Cutrone reportedly met with CATS general counsel and the CAO who both agreed that Cutrone’s rights had been violated, according to the lawsuit. He was reportedly advised to pursue legal remedies and was told he would not be fired for doing so.
The lawsuit also says that Cutrone paid out of pocket for a second opinion from another physician, at CATS’ request, who agreed that the results were a “false positive.” Two different consultants hired by CATS reviewed the policies and confirmed that Cutrone was not eligible for a random test, according to the suit.
In March, Cutrone’s test results were published by a local television station, which reported they received the results from CATS. The lawsuit says that Cutrone did not authorize CATS to publicize his medical information, which are protected by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), or his test results. Cutrone’s attorney said he now believes CATS “intentionally painted” him in a false light.
Cutrone was fired from the transit system on Sept. 9. He is suing for damages including lost wages and employment opportunities, emotional distress, humiliation and loss of standing in the community. He’s requested a jury trial.
CATS has filed a notice asking that that the suit be moved to federal court because Cutrone’s claims fall under the purview of federal law, including HIPPA.
BRProud has reached out to CATS and their attorney for comment.