Can I Refuse To Take a Workplace Drug Test?

You come to work rejuvenated by wonderful sleep thanks to the fatty you rolled last night, and your boss announces that the company will be conducting random drug tests. The good news is that no employer can force any employee to take a drug test. The bad news: they can fire you for refusal.

Many employers use drug tests to screen job applicants and to monitor their current employees. This is particularly important in manufacturing jobs where people operate heavy equipment, as the potential for injuries is high. If someone is injured on the job, employers must pay for their medical expense, so they will often ask the employ to submit to a drug test to rule out any fault on the employee’s part. In some states, like Pennsylvania, a positive drug test (or refusal to take the test) may give employers the authority to deny worker’s compensation, unemployment or disability benefits.Drug testing policies should be made available upon hire, for example in the companies handbook. In some states, employers are allowed to implement random drug testing; however, testing procedures must be transparent and truly random or else employees can make a case for discrimination.Laws about drugs are differ from state to state, and sometimes conflict with federal law. For example, federal law prohibits the sale and possession of marijuana; however, Colorado and Washington have recently decriminalized both. Regardless of state laws, employers still maintain the right to screen employees for THC and can choose to not hire or to fire for that reason.

The vast majority of employers will not report a positive drug test to authorities, and even if they did, simply having a drug in your body is not a crime. Some will not outright fire an employee but instead offer a treatment program as a requirement for staying employed. Some state laws even limit what kind of disciplinary action employers can take for an employee’s first offense.

If you’re applying for jobs and fear failing a drug test, try to find out what kind of test the company uses. For example, if you’re applying to a chain of grocery stores, you can go to one of the stores that you do not have an application on file and slyly ask one of the employees (not a manager!) about the company’s drug testing procedures. Urinalysis is the gold standard (pardon the pun) and, fortunately, is the easiest to fool. While there is a plethora of information and products for sale online that purport to rid the body of any traces of drugs, the most reliable way to pass a urine drug test (besides not doing drugs) is to use synthetic or someone else’s urine. Synthetic urine is a specially designed compound that shows up as urine in lab tests and is easily purchased online. If using either method, make sure that the sample stays warm until the test, as a cold sample can tip off lab technicians. More companies are starting to use cheaper mouth swab test, but fortunately, these tests only detect most drugs within 24 hours of ingestion.

There is really no benefit to refusing a drug test, as it usually results in the same consequences as failing. If asked to take a drug test, show up prepared, look confident and cheat.