Drug and Alcohol Testing On The Job
No one can force you to take a test on the job. But, if you say no, you may be suspended, lose your job, or be denied job-related benefits. Sometimes, an employer's order to take a test may be illegal.
There is no simple answer. It depends on the kind of job you have, why the test is ordered, and other facts. Talk to a lawyer about your case.
Some testing may be. But, constitutional protections only apply to "unreasonable" testing of government employees. The way our courts look at it now, a test is reasonable if:
- you are in a "safety-sensitive" (like airline pilots or railroad workers) or "special needs" kind of job (like law enforcement) or
- your employer has "reasonable suspicion" that you may be high or intoxicated (for example, you have alcohol on your breath; or you are very clumsy, agitated, or talking strange).
It can be hard to fight mistakes by collection sites or testing labs. These are some things you can do:
Practical: If you got the test results right away and the drug is something that stays in the system a long time, get tested somewhere else right away. If the test is clean, your employer may give you another chance. At the very least, you have evidence that the positive test could be wrong.
Legal. Your rights depend on the facts, including the kind of job you have, what laws or contracts protect you, and other things. If you have a contract or job policies that give you grievance, arbitration or internal appeal rights, talk with your union or employer representative and exercise those rights. You should also talk with a lawyer. If one turns you away, talk to others. There may be a free legal services program near you. Also, many private lawyers will talk with you the first time for free. Try to find a lawyer with experience in this kind of problem.
In Louisiana, it is usually illegal. See Revised Statute 23:897. But there is an exception:
- Your employer can make you pay for a preemployment medical examination or preemployment drug test IF your wages are at least $1 above the federal minimum wage AND you quit the job within 90 working days for any reason not caused by your employer making a "substantial change" to your job. It is also not illegal for your employer to make you sign a contract agreeing to pay the cost.
It will be hard, but it's not impossible. People have won these benefits in Louisiana even when after testing positive. People have even won these benefits for refusing to take an illegal test.
A state Department of Labor employee may try to turn you away if you don't have a "pink slip" (separation notice) or because they think you will never win benefits with a positive test result. This is illegal. When you apply, tell your side of the story in full.
If you get turned down, appeal on time and ask for a hearing. You only have 15 days from the date the notice disqualifying you is mailed. You may have a better chance at the hearing with a lawyer. You can try a free legal aid program near you, or try to find a private lawyer. At the hearing, your employer has to:
- Prove that it was proper under its own written policies to ask you to take the test.
- Prove that the test results are valid.
- Prove that the sample was collected, labeled, transported, and tested correctly.
If you think that there was a mistake, explain that at the hearing. If you think that taking the test was illegal or against your job policies, explain that at the hearing. If you think that your employer discriminated against you by asking only you, and not others, to take a test, because of your race, national origin, religion, gender (sex), or membership in another protected group, explain that at the hearing.
If the judge rules against you, keep appealing. Many people turned down for benefits in Louisiana get their benefits by appealing. If you did not have legal help at the hearing, it is not too late to try to get help.
It may be legal, so talk with a lawyer if you can. If you refuse, you risk losing any rights you may have under the workers' compensation laws, except for your right to medical treatment.