Sethness screenshot

This story has been updated to add the name of Scott Dickensen.

CLINTON — A former Sethess Products employee is suing the company and its plant manager, alleging violation of the drug testing statute and retaliation in violation of public policy.

Steve Lehmkuhl, through attorney David Albrecht of Fiedler Law Firm, P.L.C, filed a petition and jury demand in February against defendants Sethness Products Co., and Randy Glanz. A jury trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. June 15, 2020. A settlement conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 14, 2020. The jury trial is scheduled to last four days.

The petition states that in 2007, Lehmkuhl began working for the defendants as a filter operator. The petition says in early May 2017, Lehmkuhl’s supervisor told Lehmkuhl drug paraphernalia was found in the bathroom. The petition contends all of the defendants’ employees, vendors, truck drivers and customers had access to the bathroom where the paraphernalia was found, yet Lehmkuhl’s crew was the only crew subjected to drug testing. The petition says Lehmkuhl was told by Plant Manager Randy Glanz and Supervisor Jesse Kennedy that he needed to go to an urgent care clinic for drug testing once his shift was completed. Lehmkuhl took the drug test and passed. Lehmkuhl’s supervisor, Scott Dickensen, failed the drug test, the petition alleges.

“Two days later, Kennedy and Glanz suspended Steve without pay because someone claimed Steve cheated on his drug test,” the petition contends.

The petition states Lehmkuhl denied cheating on the drug test, adding Lehmkuhl’s supervisor was the only employee who accused Lehmkuhl of adulterating the test. The petition states Glanz later told Lehmkuhl he would need to submit to a second test the following day. The petition continues Lehmkuhl agreed and asked “When I pass this, do you want me to stop in today?” Glanz said “not necessarily,” and that Lehmkuhl may not be allowed to return to work even if he passed the test, the petition contends.

The petition continues Lehmkuhl was told when he arrived to take the test that it was going to be a monitored test. The petition states a male employee followed Lehmkuhl into a small bathroom and stood, looking over Lehmkuhl’s shoulder. The employee was so close Lehmkuhl could feel the employee breathing on his neck, the petition contends.

“Steve attempted to urinate but was uncomfortable and unsuccessful due to the observer’s presence,” the petition states.

The petition added Lehmkuhl tried drinking water and waiting but could not urinate. Lehmkuhl, after waiting at the clinic, told the nurse he needed to pick up his daughter from school because it was an early out day.

“Because Glanz told Steve he had until 4:30 to provide a sample, Steve assumed he could return and provide a sample after picking up his daughter,” the petition states.

The petition says Glanz called and fired Lehmkuhl minutes after Lehmkuhl left the clinic.

Sethness Products Co. and Randy Glanz, in June, filed an answer and affirmative defenses to petition and jury demand through attorney Ryan T. Brown of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP. The defendants in the answer deny the allegation Lehmkuhl’s supervisor told Lehmkuhl drug paraphernalia was found in the bathroom. The defendants in the answer admit Lehmkuhl’s crew was the only crew subjected to drug testing. The defendants also admit Lehmkuhl was told he needed to go to an urgent care clinic for drug testing once his shift was over. The defendants in the answer admit the sample provided by Lehmkuhl did not yield a positive result. They deny the remaining part of the allegation that Lehmkuhl took the drug test and passed. The defendants in the answer also deny Lehmkuhl’s supervisor failed the drug test. The answer states the defendants admit Lehmkuhl was suspended without pay but deny the remaining allegations that Lehmkuhl was suspended without pay because someone claimed Lehmkuhl cheated on his drug test. They also deny the allegations that Lehmkuhl denied he cheated on the test and that Lehmkuhl’s supervisor was the only employee who accused Lehmkuhl of alderterating his test.

The defendants in the answer to the petition denied that Glanz ordered Lehmkuhl to go to a different clinic for the second drug test and denied Glanz told Lehmkuhl he had to take the test by 4:30 p.m. that day. The answer states the defendants admit Lehmkuhl was informed he would need to submit to a second test on a Wednesday but denied the remaining allegations that on a Tuesday Glanz told Lehmkuhl he would need to submit to a second test the following day. The defendants in the answer denied the allegation that a nurse told Lehmkuhl the test would be monitored, stating they lack sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations. The defendants in the petition deny the allegation that Glanz called and fired Lehmkuhl minutes after Lehmkuhl left the clinic.

The defendants in the answer also listed four affirmative defenses in response to the petition. The answer under the first affirmative defense assert that Lehmkuhl failed to mitigate his damages, if any, as required by law. The answer continues Lehmkuhl is subsequently barred in whole or in part from recovering damages from the defendants.

“Moreover, Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s alleged injuries, losses or damages, if any, were aggravated by his failure to use reasonable diligence to mitigate them, the answer states.

The answer continues the defendants assert that at all times it acted in good faith with respect to all aspects of Lehmkuhl’s employment. The answer states they assert they made all decisions in a manner in compliance with Iowa law and Sethness’ internal written policies. The defendants also assert Lehmkuhl’s claims are barred, in whole or part, by Lehmkuhl’s own actions and misconduct. The defendants in the answer also state they tested Lehmkuhl in accordance with its written drug policy and Iowa law, adding no cause of action should arise for the refusal of Lehmkuhl to submit to drug testing.