What happens if an employee refuses a drug test?

Q:

What happens if an employee refuses a drug test?

A:

When an employee refuses a non-DOT drug test, the refusal is dealt with in different ways depending on the employer and depending on the circumstances for the testing. Usually, we would recommend an employer always have something written into their own internal drug and alcohol policy that addresses what will happen to an employee who refuses to test. Some companies will treat a refusal the same way they would treat a positive test result, so there would be potential consequences, possibly leading to termination. Some companies will want a retest. It depends largely on what is written into a company's internal protocol. In general, testers aren't in a position to force anybody to complete any testing that they don’t want to do. The tester would report it back as a refusal. The test would also complete an incident report, which is a detailed account from the tester’s perspective of what happened with the individual who was supposed to be tested. Then, that gets sent back to the company so that they get a fuller picture of exactly why it was a refusal as opposed to just getting a note saying that the employee refused. It's up to the employer to decide what to do with that information.

With Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing, due to the often safety-sensitive nature of positions in the industry, a refusal to test is considered a bit more serious. For an employee who refuses a DOT drug test, the result is generally the same as if they had gotten positive drug test result. The worker must immediately be removed from safety sensitive duties and not allowed to return to work until they have completed the return to duty process with a DOT Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). The refusal to test can be determined by a variety of qualified individuals including a Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT), the Medical Review Officer (MRO), or the Designated Employer Representative (DER) of the company, based on the guidelines set out by the DOT.

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Written by John Hawes
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John Hawes is the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing. John graduated in 2001 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy. As a former physical therapist, John uses his knowledge of physical therapy and interest in ergonomics and biomechanics to devise fit for work testing.

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