Many employees worry about the possibility of a random drug test, but it is important to understand how each state approaches random drug tests. Generally, employers may only administer random drug tests under certain conditions. Most drug testing policies today take into account the dramatic changes in drug laws across the country, particularly when it comes to marijuana. Ultimately, the goal of random drug tests should be to ensure safer working environments, not to punish employees for what they may or may not do on their own time.
Federal Regulations for Drug Testing
Only a few industries mandate random drug testing, such as transportation, nuclear energy work, and military contracts. However, the federal government does not have any rules regarding private employers’ random drug testing policy. The federal government does, however, uphold laws that prohibit unfairly targeting employees for drug tests based on protected status.
States uphold their own laws concerning random drug tests. Ultimately, each state stipulates when and how an employer may conduct a drug screening. Some states have adopted these laws in response to medical marijuana legalization and decriminalization of recreational marijuana. For example, the state of Maine now prohibits pre-employment drug screening for marijuana and prevents employers from firing an employee for an initial positive test for marijuana. Maine employers simply acknowledge this change as necessary in the face of proliferating marijuana use and the need to hire employees without worrying about how those employees spend their free time. In Pennsylvania, there is no state laws that regulates or stops companies from drug testing employees.
When Can an Employer Demand a Random Drug Test?
Most states allow employers to demand drug screening of an employee under certain conditions, typically if the employee’s work involves any amount of risk compounded by drug use. An employer may use certain justifications for a drug test.
- Direct observation of drug use in the workplace.
- Corroborated reports of an employee’s drug use.
- Observation of signs of inebriation in the workplace, such as slurred speech, inappropriate answers to work-related questions, or erratic behavior.
- Significant decline in work performance.
- Evidence that an employee contributed to or caused a workplace accident.
- Evidence that an employee has consumed, purchased, sold, or possessed drugs in the workplace.
If an employer demands you submit to a drug screening and you believe the employer does not have proper justification under state law, it may be worth challenging the employer and stating that the employer has not met the requirements for demanding a test.
Pennsylvania Drug Screening Laws
In Pennsylvania, no explicit laws require or prohibit drug screenings in the workplace. This means an employer may demand a drug screening unless doing so would violate these other standing legal provisions:
- Disability discrimination. Some prescription medications may cause a false positive on a drug screening. A Pennsylvania employer cannot deny employment based on a positive drug test for a prescription medication.
- Other forms of discrimination. An employer may not specifically target employees for drug screenings on the basis of race, skin color, national origin, religious affiliation, or any other protected status.
- Invasion of privacy. An employer may have the right to demand a drug screening at a state-operated screening facility, but it would not be legal for the employer to demand an employee disrobe and submit a urine sample in front of others in the workplace or anything along those lines.
Ultimately, most employers in Pennsylvania simply do not bother with random drug screenings unless necessary, such as in dangerous lines of work or when an employee clearly shows signs of drug use in the workplace. It is simply too expensive to issue drug screenings for an entire workforce, and investing in pre-employment drug screenings is also expensive. If you believe an employer has unfairly or illegally targeted you for random drug testing or selected you for testing on the basis of your race or other protected status, contact an employment attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.