If your Alaska employer or prospective employer has asked you to take a drug test, you’ll want to know your legal rights. Federal law places few limits on employer drug testing: Although the federal government requires testing by employers in a few safety-sensitive industries (including transportation, aviation, and contractors with NASA and the Department of Defense), federal law doesn’t otherwise require – or prohibit drug tests. For the most part, this area is regulated by state and local laws.
Like many other states, Alaska has laws that allow drug testing in certain situations, as long as the employer follows the procedural rules.
Rules for Job Applicants in Alaska
Alaska employers may test job applicants for any job-related purpose, consistent with business necessity and the terms of the employer’s policy. An employer may decide not to hire an applicant who refuses to take a drug test.
Rules for Alaska Employees
Alaska employers are allowed, but not required, to drug test employees. As for applicants, testing is allowed for any job-related purpose consistent with business necessity, including:
- to maintain productivity, safety, quality, or security
- as part of an accident investigation or an investigation of possible employee impairment, or
- on reasonable suspicion of drug use.
In addition, employers may conduct random drug testing.
Notice and Procedural Rights for Employees
An employer that conducts drug testing must adopt and distribute a written drug test policy to all employees, and employees must have at least 30 days’ notice of the policy. The policy must provide specified information about the testing program, including the consequences of testing positive or refusing to submit to testing.
Alaska law also specified the procedures the employer must use for gathering specimens, testing, and maintaining confidentiality. An employee who tests positive must be given ten days in which to request an opportunity to explain the result; if the employee makes such a request, the employer must provide a confidential setting for the meeting and must hold the meeting within 72 hours after the employee’s request or before taking any adverse job action against the employee.
Legal Claims Arising From Drug Testing
Have you been illegally asked or required to take a drug test? Even though Alaska law allows employer to drug test, employees and applicants may have legal claims based on how the test was conducted, who was tested, or how the results were used. Here are some examples:
- Violation of state laws and procedures. Although an employer has the legal right to test, it must follow the state’s requirements. An Alaska employer that doesn’t provide the required notice of its testing policy or observe state procedural rights (for example, by firing an employee for a positive result without giving the employee an opportunity to explain) could face legal problems.
- Disability discrimination. An applicant or employee who is taking medication for a disability is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some prescribed medications turn up on drug tests, and some drugs that would otherwise be illegal (such as opiates) are legitimately prescribed for certain conditions. If an applicant is turned down because of a positive drug test, and the applicant's medication was legally prescribed for a disability, the company could be liable.
- Other discrimination claims. An employer who singles out certain groups of employees – for example, by race, age, or gender –for drug testing could face a discrimination claim.
- Invasion of privacy. Even an employer that is allowed or required to test might violate employee privacy in the way it conducts the test. For example, requiring employees to disrobe or provide a urine sample in front of others could be a privacy violation.
- Defamation. An employee might have a valid claim for defamation if the employer publicizes that the employee tested positive, the test result was a false positive, and the employer disclosed the information negligently.