(CN) – A flight attendant for Southwest Airlines claims in court that she was forced to expose herself while taking a series of drug tests, in violation of federal regulations.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the federal court in Atlanta, Kari Lynn Reese says the incidents began after she was selected for a random drug test in February 2014.
Two days earlier, Reese says, she fell ill during a layover in Austin, Texas, was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, and prescribed the medications Macrobid and Pyridium.
Reese says when she showed up to take the drug test, she told the test administrator that she was temporarily taking the two medications and that the Pyridium would make her urine orange.
When her symptoms worsened during the ensuing days, Reese was prescribed the antibiotic Cipro.
Then, on March 3, 2014, Reese was diagnosed with a prolapsed bladder. At about the same time, she was also informed by a medical review officer with the airline that her initial drug test had been cancelled due to oxidants in her urine.
During a three-hour layover in Atlanta on March 7, 2014, Reese was told she had to take another random drug test.
According to the complaint, the forms she received from the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration said she had to “provide 1.5 ounces of urine, in private.” (Emphasis in the original.)
During her second drug test, Dale Hanke, an employee of defendant drug test vendor Examination Management Services Inc., allegedly “directed plaintiff to remove her sweater vest because the test would be ‘observed’ and referred to the procedure as an ‘Up Down, Turn Around,’ or UDTA.”
“In violation of both the applicable selection notice and DOT regulations, Plaintiff was then directed by Ms. Hanke to raise her shirt and bra above her breasts and underneath her armpits, lower her pants and underwear to her knees, and then turn around while Ms. Hanke watched,” the complaint says.
Reese says she became visibly upset and began to cry because she knew failure to complete a drug test was grounds for termination.
According to the complaint, Reese did not lower her underwear because she was embarrassed by her medical issues.
“Ms. Hanke instructed plaintiff that failure to do so would amount to refusal to take the test, so while attempting to hold her shirt and bra above her breasts, plaintiff lowered her underwear and well as her pants to her knees and tried to turn around. Plaintiff’s pants and underwear fell to her ankles,” the complaint says.
Hanke allegedly watched Reese urinate from two feet away.
“By the end of the whole testing procedure, plaintiff was emotionally distraught and humiliated,” the lawsuit states.
After she reached out to a union representative about the test procedures, Southwest Airlines’ Drug and Alcohol Team was contacted by union officials.
During a phone call with senior drug and alcohol specialist Nancy Cleburn, Reese was told that her drug test “had been a ‘perfect storm’ of errors” and that Hanke had been “overzealous” and “went way too far.”
She says she was then told that UDTA was “routinely administered to defendant SWA’s employees and commonly referred to as the ‘hokey-pokey.’”
Cleburn then allegedly laughed.
On March 22, Reese was told she had to take a third test, but that administrator Lynn Black would be “directly observed.”
According to the complaint, Black squatted six inches away from Reese while she urinated and at one point “reached out and physically spread plaintiff s legs wider by pushing against the inside of plaintiff s left knee with the back of her right hand.”
“Defendants and their agents, contractors and/or employees acted intentionally and/or with gross or reckless disregard for and indifference to plaintiff’s rights, thereby showing conscious indifference to the consequences of their actions,” the complaint says.
It adds: “Defendants and their agents, contractors and/or employees were on notice that they had no right, authority, or legal justification to exceed the scope of federal regulations for the administration of drug testing.”
In addition to EMS, the other named defendants are Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways. AirTran was acquired by Southwest in 2010.
Reese seeks damages for claims of invasion of privacy, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by David Cox of Atlanta.
Representatives for Southwest Airlines could not immediately be reached for comment.