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Employee drug use creates legal concerns for employers

As increasing numbers of employees are using illegal drugs, either for recreation, self-medication or due to addiction, increasing numbers of employers have to deal with the repercussions. A recent article in the Baltimore Sun presented some interesting facts about employee drug tests across Maryland and nationally.

  • The nation's largest workplace drug testing laboratory, Quest Diagnostics, found that positive employee tests were their highest in 12 years.
  • Maryland's rate of positive drug tests was 12% higher than the national average of positive tests.
  • Baltimore workers were more than twice as likely to test positive for heroin as workers across the country, and more than 30 percent likely to test positive for marijuana.
  • Nationally, positive tests for methamphetamine and marijuana were up nearly 75 percent over the last three years.

Given these statistics, businesses have legitimate reasons to be concerned about the sobriety of their workforce.

When can Maryland employers require drug tests?

We have spoken previously in this space about Maryland and federal drug test laws. In short, Maryland businesses can test job applicants under any circumstances. Maryland allows drug testing employees for a legitimate business reason. For instance, with jobs involving heavy machinery or other workplaces where safety is a major concern, drug testing employees would generally be considered legitimate.

In addition, employee drug tests in Maryland must not violate privacy laws, and must account for employees who have a legitimate health reason to take drugs. Lastly, employees who test positive for drugs have many procedural rights, including the right to seek an independent confirmation of the positive drug test.

Marijuana use brings its own complications

Maryland, like many states, allows for the use of medical marijuana. While medical marijuana is legal, employers still have the right to expect their employees who have the right to use medical marijuana will not work under the influence of the drug. Furthermore, marijuana use is still illegal under federal law. These conflicts can create significant problems for businesses.

Drug testing employees is a potentially thorny issue. Employers across Maryland that need legal assistance should consider discussing their issue with experienced legal counsel.

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