California Drug Testing Laws

If you live in California, it is likely that your potential employer will subject you to drug testing prior to hiring you. When it comes to drug testing in California, the Federal law does not impose strict regulations.

Nonetheless, employer drug testing in industries regarded as safety-sensitive such as aviation, transportation, and several others are provided for by the Federal law. This article analyses California drug testing laws with a keen focus on what they entail.


Major Drug Tests Done in California

The types of drug tests done are:

  • Urine drug test which is the most common
  • Saliva drug test which can be administered anywhere
  • Hair drug test which uses hair from any part of the body
  • Blood drug test with is administered with a urine test


Drug Testing for Prospective Employees

Based on California court cases, drug testing may be one of the terms and conditions of employment for a prospective employee. Employers are allowed to subject each and every applicant for drug testing with respect to certain job positions. In doing so, employers must not be discriminatory in any way. Discrimination involves situations to do with disability and race.


Drug Testing for California Employees

There are two issues that come into play when California courts try to establish the legality of a drug test. One issue assessed is the reason why it was necessary for an employer to conduct a drug test.

The second issue is the right of privacy of an employee. Employees tend to offer a strong argument: that an employer can use their existing work history to gauge their productivity hence no need for a drug test.

If an employer is strongly convinced that an employee is on drugs, a drug test can be conducted without worrying about litigation. However, the employer’s suspicion must be supported by verifiable facts.

All the same, random testing sparks a lot of controversies. However, California courts express that random testing is allowed especially for jobs that are safety-sensitive.


Drug Testing with Respect to the Transportation Industry

There exist strict drug testing regulations imposed by federal and state laws on commercial transportation operators and employers. If individual operators and employers fail to adhere to these laws, they expose themselves to consequences in form of penalties.


Disability Discrimination and Drug Abuse

The ADA (Federal Americans with Disabilities Act), as well as FEHA (California Fair Employment and Housing act), do not accord any form of protection to people presently using drugs. Instead, these two laws protect those who previously abused drugs but have successfully undergone rehabilitation and no longer abuse drugs.


The California Proposition 215

Commonly referred as the Compassionate Use Act, it stresses out the following:

  • Individuals can acquire and use medical marijuana
  • Physicians should not be subjected to prosecution
  • Patients using medical marijuana are protected from criminal prosecution


As much as the above is allowed, the supreme court in California argues that employers can deny employment opportunities to prospective employees if they positively test for marijuana as much as the drug has been legally authorized for a disability.

In winding up, California law allows employers to conduct drug tests on employees. But this is only justifiable in very few and well-defined scenarios. For instance, for safety and security-related jobs, employers irrespective of whether they are in the public or private sector are allowed to conduct random drug testing. As an employer, ensure you conform to the stipulated drug testing laws before asking your prospective or existing employees to undergo a drug test.