Drug Testing Laws in Ohio

Ohio has a drug-free workplace program that allows employers to drug test employees and applicants.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

If your employer or prospective employer in Ohio 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, Ohio 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.

Under Ohio law, an employer who wants the workers' compensation discount must drug test employees and applicants, in some circumstances. Employers may qualify for a deeper discount if they also perform random testing and commit to helping employees with rehabilitation.

Ohio Pre-Employment Drug Testing Rules

Ohio employers are allowed to drug test applicants and new hires.

Ohio Drug Testing Laws for Employees

Ohio employers are authorized to drug test employees in a variety of circumstances, including:

  • following a workplace accident
  • based on reasonable suspicion, and
  • after an employee returns to work after a positive test.

Employers who drug test must have employee assistance program (EAP) resources, employee education, and supervisor training.

Employers who want to qualify for a deeper discount must adopt a policy allowing for random testing of at least 15% of their workforce each year. Employers seeking the deeper discount must also commit not to terminate an employee for a first positive test, who comes forward voluntarily to acknowledge a substance abuse problem, or who is referred by a supervisor for an assessment.

Can You Be Fired for Failing a Drug Test in Ohio?

In most cases, you can be fired for failing a drug test in Ohio. That's true even if you're a medical marijuana card holder and use marijuana to treat a medical condition or you use recreational marijuana in line with state law.

However, employers must follow their own company drug testing policies, and not apply them arbitrarily or in a discriminatory fashion. For example, if an employer fires younger workers for using medical marijuana but not older workers, this could give rise to a claim of age-related discrimination.

While employers might have the legal right to terminate an employee for a failed drug test, many companies have policies requiring them to refer employees to a drug treatment program or counseling.

Legal Claims Arising From Drug Testing

Even though Ohio 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.
  • 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.

Contact an Employment Attorney

If you've failed a drug test in Ohio and are worried about your job security, first talk with your human resources department or supervisor to understand how the company intends to proceed. Familiarize yourself with your company's drug testing policy if you haven't done so already.

If you've been terminated for failing a drug test, you might wish to contact an employment attorney to discuss whether you have a claim for wrongful termination.

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