California drug testing Locations
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California drug testing laws
California State law primarily determines private employers can legally test employees for drugs. The California Constitution and cases interpreting it present the most serious restriction on applicant and employee drug testing.
California is one of the few states with a state Constitution that includes a right to privacy. That right extends not only to government employees, but to employees in private industry as well. California courts have held that this right is affected by drug testing, but that doesn’t always mean drug testing is illegal. Testing is judged on a case-by-case basis, balancing the employer‘s reasons for testing against the intrusion on the employee or applicant.
One important note about California, DOT drug testing is enforced by the Department of California Highway Patrol. They are very serious about compliance in the drug testing program and have provided a checklist which we provided a link to at the bottom of this page.
Rules for job applicants in California
California court cases have found that employers may require employees to pass a drug test as a condition of employment. As long as an employer tests all applicants for particular job positions and doesn’t single out certain applicants based on protected characteristics (such as race or disability), courts have upheld this type of testing.
California law allows residents to use marijuana for medical purposes. State law requires users to get a doctor’s written authorization to use marijuana. A patient who has a valid prescription may not be prosecuted under state law for crimes relating to the use, possession, or cultivation of a certain amount of marijuana. However, California’s Supreme Court has held that an employer may refuse to hire an applicant who tests positive for marijuana, even if the drug is legally prescribed for a disability.
Rules for California employees
When determining whether a drug test was legal, California courts balance the employer’s reason for testing against the employee‘s legitimate expectation of privacy. California has recognized that employees start with a stronger claim here, they already have a job (and a work history the employer can use to evaluate their performance), which gives them more of a stake in the process and may give the employer less of a need to test.
An employer who has a reasonable suspicion that an employee is using drugs or alcohol while at work may be on safe legal ground for issuing a drug test, provided that the suspicion is based on objective facts. Random testing is more controversial, although courts have upheld random testing for very safety-sensitive positions.
Legal claims arising from drug testing
In addition, to violating an employee‘s or applicant‘s constitutional right to privacy, drug testing may give rise to other legal problems. Here are some examples:
Disability discrimination. An applicant or employee who is taking medication for a disability is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some prescribed medications turn up on drug tests, and some drugs that would otherwise be illegal (such as opiates) are legitimately prescribed for certain conditions. If an applicant is turned down because of a positive drug test, and the applicant’s medication was legally prescribed for a disability, the company could be liable (unless the drug is medical marijuana).
Other discrimination claims. An employer who singles out certain groups of employees — for example, by race, age, or gender— for drug testing could face a discrimination claim.
lnvasion of privacy. Even an employer that has a legitimate reason to test might violate employee privacy in the way it conducts the test. For example, requiring employees to disrobe or provide a urine sample in front of others could be a privacy violation.
Defamation. An employee might have a valid claim for defamation if the employer publicizes that the employee tested positive or if the employer has reason to know that the test results might not be accurate. For example, if a retest showed that the first test was a false positive or the employee has appealed the first test, the employer may be liable for revealing the results of the positive test.
Types of drug testing
The Court found this pre-employment testing was justified under the California Constitution because of the significant problems posed for the city by employees who abused drugs and alcohol. The city had a legitimate and substantial interest in determining whether an applicant was currently engaged in such conduct before hiring. In Pilkington Barnes Hind v. Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal came to a similar conclusion when considering a pre-employment drug test by a private employer.
The courts have provided little guidance about what qualifies as a “reasonable suspicion” of an employee’s drug use. Employers should rely on objective observations made over time. To ensure suspicion is indeed reasonable, the employer should train management regarding the warning signs of drug use. This includes slurred speech, difficulty walking, and bloodshot eyes.
Random testing is really just testing without adequate suspicion of drug use. As discussed above, without adequate justification for the test, an employee’s privacy rights likely will prevail. But in Smith v. Fresno Irrigation District, a California Court of Appeal upheld random drug testing for employees in “safety-sensitive” positions. The employee’s expectation of privacy was outweighed by the employer’s “legitimate and substantial” safety-related reasons for random testing. The California Court also ruled that random testing did not have to be limited to situations involving public safety; if an employee works in an occupation in which his or her impairment could threaten the safety of coworkers or the worker himself random testing can be justified.