Can Your Employer Force You to Take a Drug Test?

Last Updated: November 10, 2022

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When you have a job that you love, you want to keep it. However, if you are struggling with substance misuse and your employer finds out, could they fire you? Can they force you to take a drug test?

Why Do Employers Test for Drugs?

Drug testing at work is not ubiquitous, but it has become more common. Employers generally want to ensure that employees are safe on the job – and safe to be with clients or products. They may also wish to promote a culture of sobriety, in keeping with their public image. Since approximately 14.8 million Americans abuse drugs and 70 percent of them are employed, this means that millions of people are potentially going to work under the influence of drugs. In a best case scenario, this does not impact the individual’s work or make them a little less productive. In a worst-case scenario, the individual’s judgment or reflexes are compromised, and that person or someone else gets hurt.

Do You Have to Take a Drug Test?

If you are afraid that the testing will show that you have used drugs or you would prefer that your employer not subject you to medical tests, you might consider declining a drug test. According to NOLO, this is generally within your rights. NOLO states: “Except for certain employers in industries that are heavily regulated by the federal government (such as transportation, nuclear energy, and military contracting), federal law doesn’t have much to say about drug testing.” However, states have other laws, so you will need to be aware of both your state’s laws and any applicable federal laws.

Generally, your employer cannot force everyone at work to take a test, nor can they conduct random tests. If your employer feels like your work is being compromised or has other reasons to think that you are using drugs, they could request that you take a drug test. In this case, it is up to you whether or not you decline, but declining could lead to the loss of your job. You do not generally have a lot of avenues to appeal this decision, and you may not be able to get unemployment insurance if you lose your job because you refused a drug test.

You May Get Tested During the Application Process

While it is less common for people in a job to need to take a drug test unless they are in the fields mentioned above, applicants to a job may be required to take a drug test. For this to be legal, you need to know that the testing will take place as part of the application process and all applicants will receive the same test that is conducted by an official, state-certified lab. This process can only take place if you have been offered the job already.

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