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Can I 'just say no' to an employer drug test order?

Drug testing is now a part of life. Like it or not. Even if you've never taken an illicit drug in your life, you still face a good likelihood of having to prove it at some point.

Private employers have wide latitude to set such policies for prospective and current employees. For many federal employees, drug testing isn't even optional. Under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and other rules and regulations that have followed, individuals in federally regulated industries, contractors and employees in executive agencies or the uniformed services face mandatory testing.

What employers know, and employees should

There may be limits on how the testing is conducted, but if you don't know what they are, you can't very well raise a challenge if you suspect a request is unfair and you want to protect your rights. This is another instance when consulting an attorney is wise.

What follows are some best practices offered by the government to guide mandatory drug testing. They're intended to protect employers, but offer insight about employee rights, too.

  • Have a clear policy: If drug testing is required, it should clearly state who is subject to it. The policy should also state when testing will occur and what consequences could result if there's a violation.

  • Put it in writing: Employers are told that unless the policy is in writing and distributed to all employees, it could trigger a legal challenge. They also are advised to have every employee confirm with a signature that they've received a copy of the policy.

  • Keep solid records: Careful employers will provide training about their policies and document those sessions. Similarly, they will maintain detailed performance reports on employees.

As an employee, you are entitled to protection of your privacy. And if there is suspicion that the employer enforces the policy inconsistently across the workforce, that should prompt questions as well.

When your career and livelihood are at stake, it is important to be sure that those in positions of power do not abuse policies meant to ensure workplace safe.

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