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Employers Increasingly Testing for Prescription Drug Use

Many employers already test employees for any trace of illicit drugs in their systems, such as marijuana, meth or cocaine. Citing a concern for workplace safety, employers are increasingly beginning to test for legal prescription drugs as well.

A recent article in The New York Times discusses the increasing practice of employers to test for drugs that are legal and possibly prescribed by a doctor. The presence of these drugs in an employee's system can lead to an employee losing their job and worse.

More and more people in the U.S. are taking prescription drugs and most of these people also work. According to the Times, a company that provides drug testing for employers said that from 2005 to 2009 the rate of employees testing positive for prescription opiates rose by more than 40 percent.

Because prescription drugs can stay in a person's system for up to a month and different amounts and types of prescription medications affect people differently, it is difficult to prove impairment. Despite this, some employers are beginning to take a one-size-fits-all approach to testing for prescription narcotics and opiates in the workplace.

The Times piece tells the story of several employees who were fired from their jobs at a factory that makes auto parts because they tested positive for certain opiate painkillers, such as OxyContin. Some of the employees were taking the drugs because of injuries they sustained on the job and were under the care of a doctor. The employees sued their former employer for discrimination and invasion of privacy. The case is ongoing, but it will be interesting to see whether the court agrees that the employees' privacy rights were violated by being tested for legal drugs.


Drug Testing Poses Quandary for Employers (The New York Times)

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