It’s no secret that random drug testing is becoming increasingly common in workplaces across the United States. Since federal laws mandated employer-issued drug guidelines in 1988, companies across the country have rushed into compliance.
But what are your rights when it comes to random drug tests? Can your employer test you without warning, even if you’re not suspected of using drugs?
In this chapter, we’ll discuss the legality of random drug tests, employee rights and how you can contest a future screening.
What is random drug testing?
Random drug testing is exactly what it sounds like—random, unannounced drug tests conducted on employees.
The most common type of random drug test is a urine screen, which can detect recent drug use even after the effects of the drug have worn off. Random drug testing can also be done with hair or saliva samples. These test screen employees for various kinds of illegal substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates.
Can employers drug test their employees?
In a word: yes. Employers may have the right to drug test their employees as long as they follow the proper procedures as well as state and federal guidelines.
The most important thing to remember is that random drug testing must be conducted in a fair and consistent manner. All employees should have an equal chance of being selected for a drug test, and no employee should be singled out for testing more than once.
Employers should also have a clear policy in place that outlines how random drug tests will be conducted. This policy should be given to all employees so there are no surprises down the road.
State and local drug testing laws
Although random drug testing is legal at the federal level, some states have their own random drug testing laws that regulate how employers can test their employees.
We need to avoid calling out any particular state and its laws. Before you take a random drug test, make sure you know your state’s random drug testing laws so you can be prepared.
Can an employee refuse a drug test?
Generally speaking, not likely. If your employer has a policy in place that requires random drug testing, you will be expected to comply.
If you refuse, you may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from taking a urine test, for example, you may be able to provide a doctor’s note excusing you from the test.
You may also be able to refuse a random drug test if it violates your state’s random drug testing laws (as discussed earlier). But if you do choose to refuse a drug test, be prepared for the consequences. Again, your employer could fire you for refusing the test.
If there are no legal grounds for this punishment, contact a workers’ rights lawyer right away to file an unlawful termination complaint.
How can you contest a drug test?
If you test positive, and you haven’t used any drugs, there’s a chance you’ve got a false positive. If you think that’s the case, request a retest. Most employers will be happy to oblige, as they don’t want to risk terminating the wrong employee.
This brings up the question of whether you can take an outside test to dispute the findings of an employer-sanctioned drug test. Unfortunately, the answer is usually no.
If you refuse to take an employer-sanctioned drug test or if you dispute the results of the test, you may be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.
What happens if you fail a drug test?
If you fail a random drug test, the first thing you should do is consult with a lawyer. You may have legal options available to you, depending on the state you live in and the circumstances surrounding your test.
In most cases, however, failing a drug test can result in disciplinary action from your employer. This could be anything from a warning to probation to termination.
If you’re facing disciplinary action or if you’ve already been fired because of a failed drug test, contact a workers’ rights lawyer. You may have grounds for an appeal or wrongful termination claim.
You should learn your employment rights under the law
Random drug testing can be disruptive and stressful. But as long as employers follow the law, it is perfectly legal.
If you’re an employee who’s facing random drug testing at work, make sure you know your rights under the law. And if you think your employer has violated your rights, don’t hesitate to contact a workers’ rights lawyer.
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