If your Tennessee 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 a number of other states, Tennessee 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 Tennessee law, an employer who wants the workers’ compensation discount must drug test employees and applicants, in some circumstances.
A Tennessee employer that wants to qualify as a drug-free workplace must test applicants who have received a conditional offer of employment. More limited testing is allowed if it is conducted on the basis of reasonable classifications of job positions. For example, an employer that doesn’t want to test every job applicant could instead test only those applicants whose jobs would require potentially dangerous activities (such as operating heavy machinery or carrying a weapon).
An employer that requires drug tests must include notice, in its job ads and postings, that it requires drug testing.
A Tennessee employer that wants to qualify as a drug-free workplace must test employees:
Employees have the right to explain or contest a positive result within five days. An employee may not be fired, disciplined, or discriminated against for voluntarily seeking treatment for substance abuse unless the employee has previously tested positive or has already been in a rehabilitation or treatment program.
Even though Tennessee 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: