Workplace Drug Testing in California

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Workplace Drug Testing in California

The federal government has limited laws regarding drug testing. Therefore, drug testing is mostly a state issue. California’s state constitution has a privacy provision that protects California citizens’ right to privacy. California courts have held that drug and alcohol testing programs implicate privacy rights for both private and public employees.

However, not all drug-testing procedures are unlawful in California. To determine whether a particular drug-testing procedure is lawful, California courts have used a “balancing test.” Under the balancing test, an employer’s reason for the drug testing is weighed against the employee’s right to privacy. Whether a drug-testing procedure is lawful depends on whether the drug testing was pre-employment testing, random testing, or reasonable suspicion testing.

Types of Testing

1. Pre-Employment Drug Testing
“Pre-employment drug testing” is when an employer requires an employee to take a drug test as a condition of employment after a job offer is tendered but before the employee goes on the payroll. In California, pre-employment drug testing is usually valid as long as it is not administered in a discriminatory manner.

2. Random Testing
California employers may not require their employees to submit to random drug testing unless the employee has a position affecting the public safety.

3. Reasonable Suspicion Testing
California courts have upheld “reasonable suspicion” drug-testing procedures in many circumstances. “Reasonable suspicion” drug-testing procedures are valid if there was evidence of drug or alcohol abuse. 

What Happens If an Employee Fails a Drug Test?

If an employee fails a drug test or refuses to take a drug test, an employer can refuse to hire her, terminate her, or refuse to promote her. However, the employer can only take these actions if the drug testing procedure was lawful.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

An experienced employment lawyer can help an employee who has not been hired, who has been fired, or who has been denied benefits because of an unlawful or faulty drug test.

An attorney can also help an employer who wants to implement a workplace drug-testing program, has been sued for allegedly unlawful drug-testing procedures, or has questions about California’s drug-testing laws.

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Last Modified: 09-14-2015 09:19 PM PDT

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