Dilemma of the Month: Drug Testing New Hires

We drug test new hires at my company. When a potential employee’s test comes back positive it’s easy enough to rescind the offer, but we had a candidate have a test returned “negative but diluted” and we rescinded the offer. The candidate had already given two weeks’ notice at his current company and they won’t take him back. Did we do the right thing?

To read the answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: Drug Testing New Hires

Related Posts

31 thoughts on “Dilemma of the Month: Drug Testing New Hires

  1. Very bad advice. Very bad logic. Almost any employee, in any occupation can cause damage to the company, to themselves, and to others if they have a substance abuse problem. Not only truck drivers. Please do not give advice on areas you have zero experience in. You have not worked anywhere for years and years. You do not even live in the United States. You are clueless as to what happens her. Please limit your advice to those things you have some knowledge of.

      1. I don’t care what people do in their spare time. Either they do the job or they don’t.

        My co-worker is exhausted and barely functioning because he and his wife accepted two foster children – one six months, one 18 months – at 2:00 a.m. last Thursday. Should we say no foster parents?

        1. Gold digger–your co-worker and his wife are super duper awesome.

          If he’s been there a year and the company has 50 or more employees, he’s eligible for FMLA for a new foster care placement. Just FYI.

          A friend of mine just accepted 4 foster kids under 5. She has two boys a bit older. She and her husband are saints!

  2. On the other hand, perhaps Employee A is white and Employee B is black — would there not also be a “racism” problem?

    And why must we, in examples like this, always assume that the “power structure” is white (Employee B) and the “discriminated against” is always black (Employee A)?

    1. why must we, in examples like this, always assume that the “power structure” is white (Employee B) and the “discriminated against” is always black (Employee A)?

      Because it almost always is?

    2. Objectively speaking, you are correct. The reality is though, that you’re far more likely to have to defend your decision in court is the one not sent is white. The world doesn’t care if it’s fair or not.

  3. Oh for crying out loud. The big mistake here is allowing a candidate to give two weeks notice at their job before successfully passing the drug test. THAT was the mistake that the hiring company made. We don’t run drug tests (you are right, many companies don’t) for office jobs, but we run background checks for everyone. All of our offers are contingent on the candidate passing the criminal background check. We know that the candidate will not give their notice until the check is passed. That way they do not give up a job and have the offer rescinded.

    1. So many people don’t do this. And so many companies want you to start RIGHT AWAY and don’t want to wait for the test to come back before you give your notice.

      And don’t get me started on people who wait until you’ve STARTED WORK before drug testing. Dumb.

      1. I had a job where they wanted to do a background check that included calling my current employer. I did not have confidence in the current employer and was dreading having the offer revoked and my current employer learning I was job searching. (The CEO at my job was horribly vindictive – the board finally fired him 18 months after I quit.)

        People. Do not call current employers. What are you trying to confirm? Get a paystub to confirm employment. Or – don’t worry about it.

      2. Exactly: a previous employer pressured me to give notice when I accepted their offer. I told them I wouldn’t give notice until *all* contingencies were removed. They weren’t happy, but corporations have vastly more money and power than individuals, so I have little sympathy for such managerial abuse. If they’d forced the issue, it would have been a clear sign I shouldn’t work for them. I like my employer “desperate and dateless” not demanding.

  4. Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. There are certain jobs that may require drug testing- we did it at a Construction type job I had and in a Health care, but not in others. As the HR person, I ALWAYS reiterated to candidates, to not give their 2 weeks notice until I contacted them with a formal offer. I’ve had a couple individuals come back with false positives or incorrect charges on their background checks. It’s a shame that we even have to drug test or run background checks, but in this litigious society…

  5. The concept of drug testing is mostly feel good BS so you can say you did it. I’ve worked in a few places with co-workers who were addicts. One was a very bad alcoholic – came to work sloppy/angry drunk multiple times. The other two were prescription drug abusers – one of whom also liked to mix her pills with booze.

    All legal substances. All caused problems at work as a result of their addictions. NONE of which would be a factor in a drug test. We test for the illegal substances – but legal drugs can be just as much of a problem at work!

    1. I work for a Federal agency. Our drug test screens for legal substances — such as prescription drugs that are commonly-abused and alcohol — as well as illegal ones. If ones test comes back positive for a legal substance, the person is given an opportunity to explain and/or — where appropriate — be re-tested.

      1. grannybunny, same here.

        Let’s say I have a legal RX for vicodin, got my wisdom teeth pulled. While taking the Rx I’m given a drugtest. The vicodin will result in a positive for opiates on our drug test. No big deal. The MRO is going to call me, ask if I have a Rx and CONFIRM with the pharmacy or my dentist. Meanwhile, me as the employer have no idea this is happening. The test is released to the employer as a negative.

        But let’s say I test positive for opiates but do not have a legal Rx that can be confirmed by the MRO. This is a positive test result.

        Our drug tests most certainly pick up legal Rx’s.

        1. Yes, this is what I was trying to explain below. And our tests certainly don’t test for EVERY possible drug out there, but it does test for both prescription and illegal drugs. And while we don’t test current employees frequently enough to catch if they’re using either type while working, we do encourage them to report prescription drug use (or exhaustion) that can affect their safety on the job, and we don’t penalize them. They get paid for their normal shift, but are given tasks that are safe to do while in their condition, further away from the dangerous machinery. Same as someone recovering from an injury, whether workers comp or on personal time. One person who normally works on some of our most dangerous machinery had a doctor’s note and worked in the office helping me catch up on filing for a few days. Our millwright lets us know when he’s had to take muscle relaxers and needs to work primarily in a supervisory capacity and not hands-on for a day or two. It’s not perfect. If people don’t self-report, we would have no way of knowing, but we hope that by handling it well, we encourage our employees to be honest, for their own safety as well as that of their co-workers.

        2. Our drug tests are the same way. The MRO will confirm any positive results as being for legally prescribed medications (just had this happen recently, in fact).

          Where it gets stickier is if there is a positive alcohol test as alcoholism is protected under the ADA. Haven’t had to deal with this one yet, thank goodness!

    2. I strongly prefer that the drug testing facility has you fill out a form indicating any drugs you are on, and they contact the pharmacy or doctor or whatever to confirm, that way the hiring manager never knows. (Of course, this assumes no safety issues–some legal drugs are still safety issues.)

      1. Good point on the legal drugs still potentially posing a safety issue. We do find out when an employee has had a positive result, as well as the MRO’s determination. We then request, if needed, a Fitness Assessment from the person’s prescribing physician. The assessment includes a copy of the job description.

        We had to do this recently as the person would be in direct contact with patients and doing simple medical procedures.

  6. We once had a guy show up for his drug test drunk. (Not very drunk, but legally so.) When asked, he said he wasn’t aware they would be looking for alcohol, and that he’d had someone else drive him to the lab. We were able to confirm the ride with the lab.

    We hired him.

    The devil is always in the details.

    1. How’s he working out?

      I think showing up to a work-related function is enough of a lapse in judgement that I would have rescinded the offer – even if we weren’t testing for drugs or alcohol.

      1. There was no reason for him to need to be sober to pee in a cup or have blood drawn. Alcohol is legal, as is being a little tipsy. He showed excellent judgment in knowing he wasn’t in a state to drive.

  7. We blanket drug test all new hires regardless of position. We also do random drug testing throughout the year-15% of our workforce. We are in Ohio and part of the states Drug-Free Safety Program.

    Anyway, a “negative but diluted” test result would be a negative for us, no further action. I have seen this test result over the years – but not very often.

    When we offer a position and the candidate accepts it’s solely on them when they give notice to their current employer. We just agree on a start date.

    We have had some who did not give notice until the drug test & background check is back and clear. I think this is fine and I don’t find suspicion in it at all. It’s a big deal to leave a company to start with a new one.

  8. As stated in many comments, the person with the “dubious “ sample had already given notice to job, which assumes a job offer was made without waiting for these drug test results.
    Because so many companies are utilizing this as a further step in weeding out prospective employees, there has to be a re-test available if you are seeking drug free employees. A result like that can mean many possibilities, including how their body processes certain foods or the prescribed medication that they are on.
    To withdraw offer based solely on a single drug test result just reflects even more negatively on that job’s viewpoint of employee status. I think that prospective employee lucked out from a restricted workplace.

  9. Totally agree with Maria Rose above. Imaginary dilemma here, based on my actual situation. Let’s say I applied for an office job, doing something like answering the phone and filing. (I’ve had to test for jobs like this, that don’t involve driving or any kind of safety protocol.)

    And let’s say I took a prescription ranitidine (Zantac) a day or so before for my acid reflux. FYI–I don’t take this medication regularly, only if I need it at night. It’s easy for me to forget I took it.

    Imagine this happened, and it yields a false positive dilute result for amphetamines (it can). If the company retests, or I remember that I took the ranitidine and tell them that’s what it was and can produce the prescription bottle, perhaps I can salvage the situation.

    If they tell me I can take a follicle test at my own expense, I would have to withdraw my candidacy, not because I do drugs (I don’t), but because I cannot afford to pay for a hair follicle test. I’m unemployed. I don’t have money for this sort of thing.

    Would a company then take on the expense for that? I doubt it. It would throw a viable candidate to the curb thanks to overly rigid policies. This would make me feel I’d dodged a bullet. I might even leave a review somewhere or tell people I know, “Hey, you might rethink applying there if you’re on ANY prescription medication.”

    Do you need to drug test for an admin position? Maaaaaaaybe if it’s in accounting. A receptionist? Nah. There are other ways to screen for potential performance issues.

    1. With most, if not all, drug testing services, if your result comes up positive, they first reach out to the candidate to ask if there’s a legitimate reason and to offer a re-test, before notifying the employer. If the candidate has a valid prescription that can cause false positives, or ate a poppyseed bagel or whatever, they either clear them or offer a re-test, depending, and notify the employer that it was negative. This takes time, of course, so the employer often knows that SOMETHING happened when they get the results after 72 hours instead of 24, but they’re never actually told that it was first a positive and then cleared, they’re just told it was negative. Now if it’s due to prescription medication that can still cause safety issues, I believe they report it to the employer. Not sure how that disclosure goes, since I haven’t experienced it. I have had the process take forever, but then it turns out that the employee never answered their inquiries, so they did report it as a positive after all. But the employee had a chance to provide mitigating information…

  10. The candidate shouldn’t have given notice until all contingencies on the job offer were removed.

    We do drug testing at my company. It’s completely warranted, as employees work around machinery all day long, some of it very dangerous (saw mill type environment–we have safety guards where we can, but sometimes there just has to be an open saw blade for actual sawing, you know?). I’m laughing hysterically at the idea that someone would back out at the threat of a drug test, whether urine or hair. We warn all applicants that we drug test. They go merrily off to the clinic, then proceed to flunk the test. Some even beg for a second chance, but of course the clinic is even more on guard for trickery then, and many fail the second test, too. Swearing all the while that they’ll pass.

    I think re-testing a dilute sample ONCE is fair, for the people whose urine is diluted for the valid reasons you point out. However, there’s no reason it can’t be another urine test, just asking them not to drink so much the next time. Having them test again at the exact same lab also lets the lab know to be extra diligent with their trickery precautions, too. But if they fail again, or fail the first time due to an actual positive result, we don’t typically give second chances. They can re-apply when enough time has passed and get drug tested again like any new applicant.

    We did have one applicant who so badly wanted to get clean and re-test that we let him, at his own expense. He kept in touch with us every week, buying dollar store drug tests (I did not know that was a thing, but it is!) and keeping us posted with how long he thought it would be until he would test clean with the professional tests. He guessed a bit prematurely, and ended up having to pay out of his own pocket TWICE, but we figured with that much effort, he probably wasn’t faking it and truly was letting the TCH run its course out of his system legitimately, and accepted him back once his results were clear. And he was a good employee for a few months, until he quit. (We don’t pay well enough to not have ridiculous turnover, unfortunately.)

    1. The candidate shouldn’t give notice until all contingencies on the job offer were removed. And the employer should make certain the candidate knows about any contingencies, and shouldn’t insist on a start date that doesn’t allow reasonable notice *after* all contingencies are removed. There are a lot of ways for this process to fail on both ends (or even in the middle – the lab could screw up, catch it, and correct their report, too).

      (And we don’t know all the details on the letter writer’s situation, so it’s impossible to even guess precisely where the failure(s) occurred.)

  11. If your executive search committee had spent nearly a year finding the best possible CEO candidate and her drug test came back, “Negative, but diluted,” would you go back to searching? Or settle for the runner-up, assuming he was still available? Or would you simply decide to accept the results as “Negative?”

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.