If your employer or prospective employer in Idaho 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 a number of other states, Idaho has a drug-free workplace program regulating drug testing. Employers who establish such a program can qualify for a discount on their workers’ compensation insurance premiums. However, employers must follow the state’s rules to get their discount. In Idaho, employers may test in certain circumstances, and must observe certain procedures intended to protect employee and applicant rights.
Rules for Job Applicants in Idaho
Idaho employers are allowed to drug test applicants as a condition of employment. The employer must have a written drug testing policy that is available for applicants to review.
An applicant who doesn’t accept an otherwise suitable job because the employer requires drug testing may lose eligibility for unemployment benefits. In this situation, the applicant could be deemed unwilling to accept suitable work, and therefore not fully available and searching for a new job.
Rules for Employees in Idaho
Idaho employers may test employees in a variety of circumstances, including:
- following a workplace accident
- based on reasonable suspicion
- as part of a return-to-duty exam, and
- at random.
An employee who is fired for refusing to submit to a test, testing positive for drugs, altering a test sample, or submitting a test sample belonging to someone else may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Notice and Procedural Rights for Employees
An employer must have a written drug testing policy that details the types of testing employees may be subject to and states that violation of the policy may resulting in termination due to misconduct.
An employee or applicant who tests positive may request a retest within seven working days. The employer may not take action based on an initial positive result that has not been verified by a confirmation test.
Procedures for gathering specimens, conducting the test, confidentiality, and so on are specified by state law.
Legal Claims Arising From Drug Testing
Even though Idaho law allows employers 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 Idaho employer that doesn’t provide the required notice of its testing policy or observe state procedural rights (for example, by testing without a written policy) 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, depending on the circumstances.
- Defamation. An employee might have a valid claim for defamation if the employer publicizes that the employee tested positive, if the employer knew or clearly should have known that the test result was in error, and the employer did not act in good faith.