Woman with "shy bladder" claims she was discriminated against during drug test

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A woman with a "shy bladder" is suing Iowa Methodist Medical Center for forcing her to take a drug test without considering her condition.

According to federal court papers filed in Des Moines, Iowa, Jennifer Conner was diagnosed with paruresis -- which is also known as "shy bladder" syndrome -- as an adolescent. The Des Moines Register reported that she was applying for a job as an organ transplant financial coordinator with the hospital, and was asked to take a drug test three days after she was offered the job.

People with the disorder have a phobia of using public restrooms and are unable to urinate in public situations for unknown reasons, the American Urological Association explained. They may have problems going in front of others or have a problem urinating when they enter a bathroom. There is no known cause for the disease, but it may stem from a traumatic experience in a person's life.

Paruresis, affects anywhere from less than 1 percent to more than 25 percent of Americans, according to the American Urological Association.

Doctors may recommend that patients with paruresis see a specialist for anxiety disorders, or have professionals teach them how to schedule urination so they are more comfortable or instruct them in self-catheterization, in which a tube is inserted in the urethra or the front of the abdominal wall so urine can be drained out.

Conner dealt with her condition by flushing the toilet or turning on the faucet while using the bathroom, but when she arrived for the test, she said she was placed in a room without running water. Nurses also knocked on the door to check in on her, which added to her anxiety. Eventually, she was asked to leave the bathroom so someone else could use it because she was taking a while. While waiting to use the facilities again, the lawsuit claims Conner faced significant physical discomfort and anxiety and began to cry because she needed to go but could not urinate.

The lawsuit was filed under the 2009 expansion to the Americans with Disabilities act.

Tom Foley, Conner's attorney, argued to the Des Moines Register that due to the expansion of the law, paruresis should be considered as a disability.

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