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Can businesses require random drug testing for employees?

Many businesses require job applicants and employees to submit to drug tests either on a random basis or as a condition of employment. Generally speaking, federal law does not govern drug tests except for federal employees. For employees working in the private sector or in state or local government, the specific state law applies.

Many states, including Maryland, generally allow businesses to test applicants and employees for drug use. With this said, businesses with employees in multiple states must take care to confirm that their drug testing policies comply with all relevant state laws.

Some states bar random drug testing or place conditions on when drug testing can happen.

For instance, Rhode Island and Vermont ban random drug tests for employees under their respective state laws. In other states, employers can only test employees under certain conditions. For instance, Connecticut, Florida and Ohio allow employers to test employees if the employer has a reasonable suspicion that the employee is abusing drugs. Other states, however, allow employers wide discretion in testing employees. For instance, Virginia and Pennsylvania, to name two states, do not even have employee drug testing laws.

How does employee drug testing work in Maryland?

In Maryland, businesses are allowed to require job applicants to take drug tests as a condition of employment. Under Maryland law, businesses can only test employees for a "legitimate business purpose." Furthermore, the sample must be tested by a licensed laboratory. The employer must provide the name and address of the laboratory at the employee's request. Should an employee's test reveal the presence of illegal drugs, the employee is entitled to the following:

  • A copy of the lab result of the drug test
  • A statement of the company's policy on drug testing
  • A statement showing the type of discipline the employer will pursue, if any
  • A statement indicating that the employee has the right to seek independent confirmation of the drug test at his or her own expense

Furthermore, employers must take care to ensure that (1) drug tests do not violate applicable privacy laws and (2) that an employee does not have a legitimate reason to take drugs. For instance, employees who take certain types of prescription medication due to illness or disability may test positive for drug use, despite having a medical necessity to take certain drugs.

Employers often have legitimate reasons to test employees for drug use. It is important, however, particularly for employers with locations across the country, to take appropriate measures to ensure their drug testing processes are legal. For years, employers and employees across Maryland have relied on Thatcher Law Firm to find solutions to their employment-related legal needs.

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