Can an employer require drug testing?

Drug testing may make some people nervous or feel threatened. Sometimes, people feel they are being accused of a crime when they’re asked to take one. Usually, that’s not the case. Some employers require testing of new recruits, and that’s okay.

Employers don’t have to have a reason to ask for a drug test if you’re a job applicant, but that’s not the same as if you’re an employee. As an employee, your employer needs to have a reason to ask for your drug testing. For instance, if your employer has a reasonable suspicion that you’ve been taking drugs and coming to work high, then he or she may request a drug test that you should then take. If your test comes back negative, then that’s good news, and if not, then you may have to face penalties according to your job’s rules. If your job involves driving or other safety issues, you may be asked to have a drug test as part of your job without advanced notice.

In California, you are an at-will employee, but that doesn’t mean you can be treated unfairly due to your age, race or other protected reasons. On equal footing, your employer doesn’t have to treat you fairly, but if it’s based on your age, sex, gender or disability, among other reasons, he or she could be accused of illegal behavior and discrimination.

You also can’t be fired if you make a complaint about your job to a government agency or complain to law enforcement. If you are fired for complaining about your employer participating in illegal acts, then you can claim retaliation, which is not legal in California or any other state.

Source: California Bar, “Can an employer ask me to take a drug test?,” accessed Jan. 15, 2016

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