Can I Be Fired for Failing a Drug Test in California?
Many employers use drug screening to comply with state and federal drug-free workplace regulations or to enforce workplace safety. Because of this, employees often worry about job security and whether they can be fired for failing a drug test.
As long as employers abide by privacy laws and anti-discrimination regulations, it is lawful for California employers to ask you to take a drug test and subsequently fire you or refuse to hire you if you fail. However, it is not legal for an employer to terminate you for testing positive for drugs you take for a medical or mental health condition. You may also have grounds to challenge the drug testing itself as a violation of your constitutional right to privacy or for other legal issues.
Today, we’ll discuss when you can be fired for failing a drug test in California and how to protect yourself from unlawful termination. Contact our team to discuss your case with an experienced employment lawyer.
What Are the Laws About Being Let Go from a Job for a Failed Drug Test?
Specific California laws dictate how and when employers can conduct employee drug testing. However, the state recognizes an employee’s constitutional privacy rights and limits the circumstances under which an employer can screen for drug use. For example, the law prohibits employers from conducting random drug tests except in specific safety-sensitive industries such as transportation and aviation. Generally, and with some exceptions, when an employee fails a drug test, Section 1025 of California’s Labor Code allows employers to fire or refuse to hire them.
Pre-Employment Drug Testing
Before hiring a candidate, California employers can require a pre-employment drug test after they extend a job offer but before the employee begins working. However, there are some limitations. For example, employers are generally only permitted to test for illegal substances like cocaine and amphetamines. Moreover, companies must test all applicants and cannot discriminate based on race, disability, or other protected characteristics.
It is also important to note that California law protects medical marijuana use and that it cannot be the basis for adverse employment action. California employers do have the right to enforce a drug-free workplace policy, including prohibiting marijuana use on work premises. But they must also provide drug-free guidelines that are fair, clear, and consistent.
Current Employee Drug Testing
California employers who reasonably suspect on-the-job drug use may legally request that an employee take a drug test. Courts base reasonable suspicion on an employer’s objective observations, such as the employee’s behavior, appearance, or performance, or when mishaps occur, such as a serious accident. When an employer bases their reason for testing on protected characteristics like race, age, or gender, it is illegal and could result in a discrimination claim. Except under narrowly defined circumstances, random drug testing is also illegal. However, employers can lawfully fire an employee for using illicit drugs once an employee has legally taken a drug test.
Specific employee drug testing laws may also differ regionally. For example, San Francisco enacted its own local employee drug testing ordinance. For this reason, it’s important to consult with an employment attorney who knows and understands the law in your area. They can advise you of your specific rights.
Reasonable Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities
Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. This includes employees using legally prescribed medications or undergoing treatment that may trigger a positive drug test. When an employer fires or refuses to hire an employee for taking drugs a doctor prescribes, it is illegal, and the employee may be able to file a disability discrimination claim.
What Are the Consequences of a Failed Drug Test?
The consequences of a failed drug test depend on the employer’s specific rules and policies. Generally, California employers have the right to establish their own drug-free workplace procedures, including disciplinary actions for employees who fail drug tests. However, employers must communicate their drug testing policies to employees to ensure transparency and avoid employee misunderstandings. They must also apply them consistently in a non-discriminatory manner.
Bibiyan Law Group, P.C.: Experience You Can Count On
If you were unlawfully fired because of a failed employer drug test or for refusing a drug test, you may have a right to sue for wrongful termination. The Bibiyan Law Group can review your case, file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and represent you in a civil lawsuit against your employer. We’ve won millions of dollars for clients by fighting unlawful employment practices. And our years of tireless advocacy have earned us a perfect Avvo rating and a lauded place in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Contact us at 310-438-5555 to schedule a free phone consultation. Our experienced negotiators are ready to help you secure the resolution you deserve.