According to a recent study by the American Management Association, 51.5% of employers use some form of drug testing. Most employers use basic testing, which screens for the following drugs:

  • Amphetamines (speed, meth, crank, ecstacy)
  • Cannabinoids (hash, marijuana)
  • Cocaine (crack cocaine, powder cocaine)
  • Opiates (heroin, morphine, opium, codeine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Some employers use extended testing to screen for barbiturates, benzodiazepines, ethanol, hallucinogens, and inhalants, in addition to the drugs listed above.

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When is Drug Testing Legal?

The federal government has limited laws regarding drug testing. Therefore, drug testing is mostly a state issue. States and local jurisdictions have different laws regarding what methods of drug testing are lawful, which substances can be included in a drug test, and when employers can use drug tests.

In California, for instance, the validity of drug-testing procedures depends on whether the drug testing was pre-employment testing, random testing, annual testing, post-accident testing, or reasonable suspicion testing. Pre-employment testing is usually valid in California as long as it is not administered in a discriminatory manner. On the other hand, random drug testing in California is generally not legal for employees whose jobs do not impact public safety.

What Can I Do if I Fail a Drug Test?

If you failed a drug test, you may be able to contest the results. Drug tests are sometimes unreliable. Many people who have never used drugs have tested positive for drugs (called a "false positive"). Also, testing labs sometimes make mistakes. Your employer might allow you to take the drug test again or give you information about contesting the results with the testing lab.

What Can Cause a False Positive?

There are many legal substances and products that can cause a false positive. The following common substances are among the many that may cause a false positive:

  • Nasal sprays
  • NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Poppy seed products
  • Products containing hemp (including some shampoos, tanning lotions, and food products)

What Happens if I Fail a Drug Test?

Each state or municipality has its own rules regarding drug testing in the workplace and the consequences for failing a drug test.  If you fail a pre-employment drug test, the company might refuse to hire you. If you fail a drug test while employed, your employer might terminate you or restrict you from being promoted. Your state may also deny you unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, or disability benefits for failing a drug test. However, not every jurisdiction or employer has a zero tolerance policy; seeking treatment may be an option for you if you fail a drug test.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Fail a Drug Test?

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. Your attorney can help you understand the drug testing laws in your jurisdiction, decipher the best course of action for you, and protect your rights and remedies.