If your Colorado employer or prospective employer has asked you to take a drug test, you should 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.
Unlike most states, Colorado does not have a statutory scheme governing workplace drug testing. Although Colorado addresses drug testing in the context of unemployment (see below), the state has not legislated the circumstances in which a private employer may or may not require drug testing, the procedures that must be followed, and so on.
Colorado law states that an employer will not be charged for unemployment benefits if it terminates an employee for failing a drug test administered under a preexisting written policy. Based on this law, the Colorado Court of Appeals has held that an employee has no legal claim for wrongful termination after being fired for failing – or for refusing to take -- a drug test. The Court found that the unemployment statute created a standard of acceptable employer conduct, for which the employer could not be sued.
Although Colorado law doesn’t protect employees from having to take a drug test (or from being fired based on the results), drug testing may give rise to other legal claims. Here are some examples: