Can My Employer Force Me to Be Drug Tested?

Drug testing is highly invasive and can easily be used in a discriminatory manner. However, drug testing employees is often legal in New Jersey.

Unlike other states, New Jersey has few laws on the books in regards to drug testing. Instead, whether an employer can use drug testing depends on looking at whether you have already been hired and what kind of work the employee performs.

No Testing Before an Offer is Extended

Generally speaking, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking applicants to engage in medical testing before being hired. This prohibition should cover drug testing in the early stages of interviewing.

However, once an employer extends a job offer, they can require testing. In fact, they can condition your employment on undergoing a drug test. If you refuse to take the test, the employer can pull the job offer.

One example involves public school employees. N.J.S.A. 18A:16-2 allows the board of education to require any employee with a conditional offer of employment to undergo a physical exam, which can include a drug test.

Drug Testing Private Employees—Is Public Safety Implicated?

But what of employees who already are working? The law is complicated. One New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Hennessy v. Coastal Eagle Point Oil Company, 129 N.J. 81 (1992), examined whether a random urine test violated the privacy rights of employees.

The court stated that any privacy interest could be outweighed by a competing interest in public health and safety. If an employee performed work that could endanger the public, then random drug testing is allowed. This is true of those who operate heavy machinery or work with dangerous chemicals.

Of course, federal regulations play a role, also. The federal Department of Transportation, for example, mandates drug testing for those who operate commercial vehicles in commerce.

If the employee’s work is unlikely to affect public health or safety, and there is no federal requirement, then an employer has fewer grounds for testing workers. This does not mean they are prohibited from testing. In some situations, it might be a business necessity to require drug testing. However, current laws such as the ADA could limit how and when they test, as well as what they do with the information.

Is Drug Testing Employed in a Discriminatory Fashion?

Of course, no employer can administer a test in a discriminatory fashion. For example, an employer who required only African American employees undertake a drug test has been racially discriminatory. The same is probably true if the employer only required those under 40 to take a test for marijuana use. Most employers, however, will probably ask all employees to take the test as a condition of employment, and it will probably pass legal challenge.

Has an Employer Discriminated Against You?

If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you with a workplace drug test, you might have a valid legal claim. New Jersey workers should reach out to a seasoned New Jersey employer drug test discrimination attorney at Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP today. We can more closely examine the circumstances surrounding the drug testing and bring a lawsuit, if necessary, to protect your rights.