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Man Fired for Failing to Pee on Demand

Ron Koonter says his shy bladder syndrome prevented him from complying with a random drug test. His doctor backed him up—but he was still fired.



A 16-year employee of the Michigan Department of Transportation was fired for failing to urinate on demand.

Ron Koonter, a building maintenance electrician, was asked to produce a urine sample for a random drug test conducted October 25. He said he has a medical condition that prevents him from doing so – and his doctor backed him up.

"This matter of his 'shy bladder' causing him to lose his job is just plain wrong ... in my professional medical opinion," Dr. Mark W. Schaar, Koonter's physician, wrote in a November 15 letter quoted in The Lansing Journal.

"I fail to understand (why) ... in the face of Mr. Koonter's previously diagnosed and documented medical condition ... you are continuing to follow through with his termination of employment."

Koonter, 43, says he has a spotless record. He passed eight random drug tests in the past, before the onset of his shy bladder syndrome. After he was fired, Koonter paid for two drug tests: one on November 3 and one on November 11. Both were negative. A grievance hearing was held November 22, and even a state politician has waded into the fray, writing in support of Koonter.

Koonter has a wife and two children, one of whom has a serious health problem. The loss of pay and health insurance has, he told The Lansing Journal, put his family in a "tailspin."

Responding to The Lansing Journal's inquiry, MDOT spokesman Bill Shreck declined to comment, citing privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Shreck added: "[Koonter] has due process rights, and it's my understanding he is taking advantage of those. At some point, it probably will go to arbitration."

Shy bladder syndrome, also known as paruresis, is a social anxiety disorder that, according to the International Paruresis Association, affects 7 percent of the population. 

Last updated: Dec 14, 2010


Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.

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