Regulations for California Employers on Drug Testing

If you’re an employer, it can be very difficult trying to navigate the drug testing laws in your state, especially if you have a business that spans multiple states. California has some strict privacy based laws, which can make it a little harder to drug test your employees. There are a few situations where it’s very straightforward and you’re easily able to test, such as for pre-employment drug screening. There are also a few situations where it’s not possible to easily test your employees in the private sector, such as randomized drug testing. To learn more about the drug testing regulations for the state of California, keep reading.

Pre-employment Drug Testing
This is hands down the easiest time to perform drug testing in the state of California. If drug testing is important to your company, then I would advise making drug testing during the hiring process a normal practice. Hopefully you’ll never see a positive result, but it can give you a full picture as to the person you’re hiring and whether they’re a good fit for your company. The pre-employment drug testing must take place after a formal offer has been given, but before the employee has started their duties. California drug testing laws state that pre-employment drug testing can be done with no restrictions, however be mindful that this drug testing panel no longer includes marijuana and its metabolites as it is now legal in the state of California.

Random Drug Testing
For most industries, random drug testing is not legal in the state of California. This is due to California’s privacy laws, and they consider random drug testing to be an invasion of the employees right to privacy. There are a few situations which are exceptions to this rule – for federal employees, and for employees in the private sector who work in safety-sensitive positions. However, the majority of employees in the private sector will simply not be able to be randomly drug tested.

Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing
If you have suspicions that an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, then you may be able to perform suspicion based drug testing. However, you’ll want to be very sure that there is a good chance that something will come back positive. For this reason, we suggest that you, or your employee, enroll in a course through a local lab to know how to notice the signs of drug or alcohol use. This suspicion must be based on logical facts, and not word of mouth or something more vague.

Post Accident Drug Testing

If a workplace accident happens, then it may be necessary to conduct drug and alcohol testing to be certain that it wasn’t due to consumption and impairment. For alcohol testing, this must be performed within an 8 hour window after the incident, and for drug testing, it must be performed within a 32 hour window. If an employee refuses post accident drug testing, you can consider it a ‘positive’ result. If your employee’s drug test returns a positive result, then you can take further disciplinary action that will vary depending on the accident and the employee’s position. For example, a truck driver who caused an accident while under the influence of drugs and alcohol may lose their license and be unable to work in this industry anymore.

California favors the employee’s right to privacy, which can limit the scope of available ways to drug test your employees. Hopefully this guide clarifies some of the ways drug testing is legal in California, but as always refer to your company’s specific policy on drug testing or consult an attorney for more guidance. 



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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