What are my rights if my drug test yields a false positive?

Question:

My employer has a random drug testing program, and I was selected to be tested last week. I was just informed that I tested positive for illegal drug use. This can't be right; I don't use any illegal drugs. In fact, I have been clean and sober for more than two decades. However, I also take a variety of herbal supplements and Chinese medicines. I assume something I'm taking must have created a false positive on the test. What can I do? I don't want to lose my job over an incorrect test result!

Answer:

Your first step should be to talk to your employer. Many drug testing programs have a medical officer or someone else who is designated to speak to employees about their use of legal prescription drugs, a common source of positive test results. Find out who you should speak to and schedule an appointment right away. Bring all of the medications and supplements you are currently taking, and be prepared to give details about dosages and amounts.

One of your supplements may be a known false positive trigger. Particularly if your employer has contracted with an experienced laboratory, there should be an easy way to find out whether your drug test result can be traced to your use of over-the-counter supplements.

It's also possible there was simply a mistake on the first test. A common drug testing protocol is to divide the test sample into two portions, testing one immediately and saving the other for a retest, in case of a contested positive result. If this happened in your case, ask for a retest of your sample.

If your employer for some reason doesn't believe your explanation of the positive result, and your retest comes up positive again, it's time to talk to an experienced employment lawyer about the best way to protect your rights.

Some states have adopted required appeal or testing procedures for employers who test for drugs. To find out your state's rules, select it from the list at State Laws on Drug Testing.

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