Drug & Alcohol Testing

From 1987 until 1998, Iowa law generally prohibited drug and alcohol testing of current or prospective employees. That changed in 1998, when the Iowa Legislature enacted Iowa’s private sector drug testing law, which allows drug and alcohol testing of current and prospective employees in certain circumstances. Even though drug and alcohol testing has become common, the law has many requirements designed to protect workers. Employers frequently fail to meet the law’s requirements.

If an employer fires or refuses to hire you based on a drug test, but it did not follow the law, you may be entitled to recover lost wages.

The law’s requirements for prospective and current employees

An employer may request samples only of urine, saliva, or breath. Blood samples may only be used when an employee is being treated by a healthcare professional following a workplace accident, so long as the employer did not suggest or encourage the test. All samples must be collected under sanitary conditions and with due regard for the privacy of employees. For a urine test, the employer must provide a location for urination to occur in private, unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe the employee will alter or substitute the specimen.

An employer must allow employees and prospective employees to provide information about prescription or nonprescription drugs they have recently used, along with any other relevant medical information. The employer must provide a list of the drugs to be tested.

If the initial test is positive, the employer must confirm the results by having a laboratory conduct a confirmatory test. The employer may suspend the employee pending the lab’s test, but no action (firing or refusal to hire) can be taken until the employer obtains a confirmed positive result.

Results should remain confidential, except in certain circumstances.

The law’s requirements for current employees

Employers may conduct random, reasonable suspicion, or post-accident drug and alcohol testing of current employees so long as the testing and any subsequent action (suspension/discipline/firing) is carried out pursuant to the employer’s written policy and complies with the law. Employers must provide current employees with a copy of the drug/alcohol testing policy.

“Random” drug testing occurs when an employer requires a portion of its workforce to undergo unannounced drug testing. The selection of employees must be done by a company other than the employer and selection must be generated by a random number generator on a computer. The employer cannot pick and choose which employees to include in the “random” test.

When an employer has a confirmed positive result for a current employee, it must notify the employee, in writing, by certified mail, of the results of the test and the employee’s right to request a second confirmatory test within seven days. The worker gets to choose the lab that will conduct the second test and must pay the fee of the test in advance, but if the second confirmatory test is negative, the employer has to reimburse the worker for the full cost of the second test.

An employer may take disciplinary action against an employee once it receives a confirmed positive result, but the disciplinary action must be uniform and must be included in the written policy. The disciplinary action may only be based on the result of the test–no other factor can be considered.

If you think you were improperly subjected to a drug test, or that your drug test was carried out contrary to law, you should consult a lawyer of your choice.

The law’s requirements for prospective employees

Drug and alcohol testing may only be conducted within the terms of a written policy, and a copy of that policy must be available for people who are applying for jobs.

When an employer has a confirmed positive result for a prospective employee, it must notify the prospective employee, in writing, of the results of the test; the name and address of the medical review officer who analyzed the results; and the prospective employee’s right to request medical records. If you were denied employment because of a drug test, but were never given written notice of the results of the test or your right to request records related to the test, you should consult a lawyer of your choice.

Treatment/Employee Assistance Programs

Employers that engage in drug testing are required to have an “awareness program” to inform employees of the dangers of drug and alcohol use in the workplace. They must either provide an Employee Assistance Program or maintain a resource file of alcohol and other drug abuse programs. In certain circumstances, an employee that tests positive for alcohol must be provided the opportunity to attend rehabilitation, and the employer may be required to pay for a portion of that rehabilitation.

If you have questions or concerns about a drug test, you should consult a lawyer of your choice.

All information on our website is meant to be generally informative. To find out whether this information or certain employment laws apply to your situation in particular, you should consult a lawyer of your choice.