Drug screening is a large part of employment in many communities. In states where it’s allowed, employers use drug testing as a way to minimize liability risks. Having an employee on the clock who’s under the influence puts everyone else at risk. If you’ve failed a random drug test at work, you may need to make key decisions about your options. Depending on state laws and employer rules, you may lose your job. However, entering treatment may help.
FHE Health provides immediate help for those who need it. You have rights when it comes to getting medical care, and, in some cases, filing for medical leave protection can give you the immediate support you need.
Can Your Employer Fire You for a Failed Drug Test?
The simple answer here is yes. However, there are limitations present. Some jobs are safety-sensitive, and a person with limited capabilities may put others at risk as a result. In some federal contractor positions, very specific drug-testing is conducted according to federal guidelines. Employees may be fired in some situations.
Most often, companies have specific tests an employee must take if a drug test failure occurs, in accordance with state law. In some states, employment is at will, which means the employer can elect to terminate employment for that individual if he or she fails to meet standards set forth earlier. In other states, laws may not allow drug screening by private employers.
While employers must abide by state laws, most expect employees to come to work fully able to perform the job. If you cannot do that, that may be grounds for termination.
What Happens After Your Drug Test?
Most larger employers now have a set of rules in place to dictate how they handle failed drug screenings. Here are some examples.
An individual interviews successfully for a job but must pass a drug screening before being hired. An employer cannot discriminate against you for past drug use but can make employment contingent on a passed drug screening. If you fail it, they may not hire you.
Current Employee Screenings
Some employers require random drug screenings of current employees. Company policy may be to randomly test employees as a routine process. In some states, an employer may require a drug screening if an employee engages in activity that indicates they are using drugs or alcohol on the job. In all cases, such screenings should be administered fairly across all employees.
Some states, including Minnesota and Vermont, do not allow employers to fire an employee who fails an initial drug test after he or she is employed by the company. Rather, if the employee agrees to enter rehabilitation and treatment, he or she may keep the job. Some private employers do this even in states where laws give them the right to fire an employee immediately.
Are Drug Tests Protected by HIPAA?
HIPAA is a law that can be challenging to understand. It requires that medical information is kept confidential between the doctor or provider and the patient. Many steps are involved in this process to protect patients’ privacy, and in some cases, testing facilities may find it difficult to supply employers with information as a result.
Under the law, the employer’s organization must still keep information about drug screenings confidential. State laws that allow employers to drug-screen employees still have protocols in place to limit access to that information. Most often, the human resource manager, supervising manager or other individual overseeing the employee is the only one to receive this information. That person is also legally required to keep the information private.
What does this mean for you? Your employer can require you to be drug-screened in these states. In those areas, your information still must be kept confidential, protecting your rights.
What About Medical Marijuana?
An area of constant question is about medical marijuana use. The problem isn’t as clearly defined across the country as drinking alcohol or using other illicit drugs. Some states allow people to use marijuana as a form of medical care; other states have made it legal to use recreationally as well. However, there are limitations in all cases. Specifically, if you cannot perform the duties of the job due to intoxication, your employer has the right to terminate your employment.
Here are a few things to know:
- States such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island do not allow employers to terminate an employee just for carrying a medical marijuana card.
- In New York, those who have this medical card are treated the same way as those who have any disability.
- No state allows employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana on the job.
The Best Defense for a Positive Drug Test
What do you do if you have failed a drug screening, then? If you have a positive result, your first step is to be open with your employer. Don’t hide information from them. Instead, ask for help. Private employers are often willing to help employees get the care they need for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Taking that initial step — enrolling in treatment — may provide you with a way to protect your job as well.
Some people may wish to file for Family Medical Leave Act protection. This move allows you to get treatment at a licensed facility for up to 12 weeks. During that time, your employer may not terminate your position or your benefits. The employer is not required to continue to pay you during this time, though.
Filing for this assistance can provide you with time to enter into a treatment program immediately. This can help you work through detox and initial treatment. At the end of that period, you may be in a better position to get back to work.
Even if you cannot take this step, your rights to protect your position depend on state laws. If an employer has the legal right to terminate employment, you may not be able to stop the process.
Seeking Immediate Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Could Help
In many situations, the best step to take is to enroll in drug or alcohol treatment. FHE Health is here to help you with immediate support for detox and both inpatient and outpatient treatment. We can work to represent you with your employer as well.