When applying for a job, we must meet specific general requirements such as presenting our CV, identification documents, or credentials that accredit us to perform a certain job; in addition, one of the most controversial requirements when entering a job is the pre-employment drug test.
Many employers decide to request this test to their applicants or employees to safeguard workplace safety since substance abuse can affect productivity and cause accidents (to mention some of the consequences).
If you have been asked to take the test and you do not know how it works, you have found the right article!
What is a pre-employment drug test?
A pre-employment drug test is, at first, a requirement from employers to determine if a future employee uses illicit substances or abuses prescription drugs. It can also be required to those workers who return to work after an absence; in such case, it would be called a pre-placement drug test.
As you may know, legislation varies in each state; however, in all states, federal and private employers can ask their potential workers to take the test.
- For instance, applicants who aspire to work in national security must take the test.
- In the case of private employers, they can demand you to take the test because of their drug-free workplace policy.
Generally, employers make the job offer contingent on a negative test result. In some states like California, this is the only way a potential employer can ask you to take the test. In other states, the law requires that advertisements state that a pre-employment drug test is required.
Drug test types
There are several types of drug tests that detect forbidden substances by collecting urine, saliva, blood, hair, or sweat. Accuracy, the window of detection, and drug type vary depending on the specimen.
The urine test is the most common, and its window of detection is 5-10 days; while the hair test can detect substance abuse for up to 90 days after consumption. In fact, the urine test is the only one used in federally regulated programs, such as those performed by the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT).
Regarding blood and saliva specimens, both have a much shorter detection window than previous samples. In the saliva test, the detection range is 7 to 21 hours; in the blood test (although it is more invasive and expensive) the detection period is from minutes to hours.
Drug tests are generally used to detect 5 categories of drugs (although they can detect other substances if needed):
- Opiates (opium, morphine, heroin, etc.).
- Cocaine (crack, coke).
- Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust).
On the other hand, pre-employment drug tests may also be used to detect methaqualone, methadone, hydrocodone, barbiturates, propoxyphene, or ethanol.
Frequently asked questions
Do they watch you pee for a drug test?
Although it can be easy to alter the sample, neither your employer nor the lab assistant will watch you while you collect the sample.
Some courts have determined that it could be a violation of the employee or aspirant’s privacy to require a person to accompany them to the toilet; however, it is legal for employers to put in place other safeguards to prevent tampering with the urine sample. For instance: asking you to wear a hospital gown or accompany you to the bathroom and listen while you urinate.
Keep in mind that if you are applying for a federal job, the demands may be higher due to the job’s importance.
Can I refuse to take a pre-employment drug test?
Yes, of course. You can refuse to take the test if you consider that your privacy is being violated. However, remember that in many cases, the job offer will depend on whether you take the test or not; if you refuse to take the drug test, you will be indirectly rejecting the job.
Can I choose the lab that will examine my drug test?
Generally, the sample will be taken by a certified collector, or your employer will ask you to go to a certified laboratory. Now, if it is a pre-employment drug test for a federal job, the test must necessarily be carried out by a certified lab.
If you click here, you can download the current certified Laboratories and Instrumented Initial Testing Facilities (IITFs) list.
What should I do if I tested positive?
On several occasions when a person has a positive result, it does not mean that they have an addiction to any substance; we must carefully study each case. However, in this link, you can find information related to employee assistance programs provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).