Drug test questions
December 16, 2009 7:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a question about being hired as a contractor for the Department of Justice and having to take a drug test.

I applied for an entry-level position at the US Attorney's office in my city. I was brought in for an interview, and before it started I sat down with a woman from HR. She explained that if I were hired it would be as a contractor and not as a federal employee, which meant that my benefits would be provided by an outside company. She told me that I would have to get a security waiver, which meant a background investigation. She told me, without being asked, that there would be no drug test. I was glad to hear that, since I use marijuana most days.

The next day she called and said that they were offering me the job and I could start once my security waiver went through. They sent me forms to fill out. One of the questions on the form asked whether I have used any illegal drugs in the past 7 years, and I answered no. I submitted the form and went in for fingerprinting. They told me it would be a couple of weeks before it went through and then I could start.

Today I got a phone call from someone at USIS/Labat-Anderson, whom I recall the HR person saying would be the company providing my benefits, but with whom I had had no contact so far. The guy on the phone told me that he'd sent me something in the mail I'd have to sign and fax back to him. The package I received contained USIS/Labat-Anderson's substance abuse policy and a memo stating that the substance abuse policy was "referenced in the conditional offer letter of employment that you have received. As you acknowledged by signing your conditional offer, all applicants for employment with USIS are subject to pre-employment drug screening." The memo also says that I will have to take the drug test within 48 hours of receiving the notice. The aforementioned offer of employment, which I had never seen before, was also in the package.

Here's what I'd like to hear from anyone who has actual experience here:

1) Is there any way to salvage this job opportunity?
2) If not, how should I proceed?
3) Would failing the drug test mean more than just not being offered the job? Would it mean e.g. I would face penalties for lying on the security form?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total)
2) Go through the usual pre-test measures and take the test. Continue doing so even after taking the test. If you fail, 99% of the places will allow you to re-test. Retest.
posted by unixrat at 7:25 PM on December 16, 2009

She told me, without being asked, that there would be no drug test. I was glad to hear that, since I use marijuana most days.

One of the questions on the form asked whether I have used any illegal drugs in the past 7 years, and I answered no.

You flat out lied on the form. You would have had to sign the SF86 questionaire to certify that your statements are true under penalty of "fine or imprisonment or both."

That's a bigger deal than whether or not you actually have to pee into a cup-- if you lie, you're pretty much automatically guaranteed to denied, which means you'd most likely have a really hard time getting any sort of clearance at any time in the future.

If I were you, I'd call up HR, tell them you screwed up and lied, and if they haven't yet submitted your form, try to amend your questionnaire.
posted by buka at 7:45 PM on December 16, 2009

to clarify-- you're not going to go to prison or get fined for lying on the form. but even if you didn't have to take the drug test, if they find out that you lied about using drugs you'll be denied (which is pretty rare, especially for secret level clearances). that would mean that you wouldn't be able to get the job, given the offer is conditional on your ability to pass and maintain a clearance. but the bigger deal would be that there'd be a record of you having lied on the clearance application, so the penalty is that you probably wont be able to get a job that requires a clearance in the future.
posted by buka at 8:03 PM on December 16, 2009

Not disputing buka's answers at all, but if you live in a state that permits the medical use of marijuana, would it be possible to get a medical marijuana card and claim you use the drug "legitimately"? You will likely still fail the pee test, but it might provide some cover for lying on the form.
posted by plowhand at 8:08 PM on December 16, 2009

My roommate (seriously) had a drug test for employment that he was sure to fail as he had smoked marijuana within about a week or so. He did all the detox shit he could find, drank tons of water, and his test came back "diluted." He got to take it several days later and passed fine. This is what I would recommend if you cannot get clean within the time period. Federal gubmint might be stricter than his private Co. though.
posted by jckll at 8:28 PM on December 16, 2009

While jckll is correct, this is known as "water bombing" and places that take testing seriously will count this as a failed test. For example, if you try to pull such shenanigans in the court-run drug rehab program here you will get locked up. Not sure how much DoJ frowns on the practice.
posted by falconred at 10:36 PM on December 16, 2009

Government security tests are often hair tests, rather than pee tests. There is no good way to pass a hair test, except to buzz cut your hair, in which case they will usually do a blood test.

I lost a job with a govt contractor because I refused to give them DNA. YMMV.
posted by dejah420 at 6:09 AM on December 17, 2009

Though you're sort of past this point already, I'll echo the sentiment that the big mistake was not smoking pot, but was lying on the form. It's my understanding, from similar questions on AskMeFi and elsewhere, that if the DOJ disqualified anyone who admitted to drug use, they wouldn't have much of a talent pool to work with. One of the main reasons they care about drug use at all is that they don't want to hire people who are in a position to be blackmailed. If you smoked pot occasionally and in the past, they're not going to be too worried. If you have a serious dope habit or are importing pot into the country, they're going to be. More importantly, they care about whether you're forthright about the things that they ask you about. It sounds like that's where you screwed up here.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2009

Here's what I'd like to hear from anyone who has actual experience here

If the posters above have had no experience w/the federal govt. and clearance-related jobs, then I would be wary of taking their advice.
posted by lalochezia at 7:59 AM on December 17, 2009

The OP asked me to post this:

I spoke to the HR person who had said there would be no drug test. She looked into it and found out that she was mistaken. I've withdrawn myself from consideration for the position, and I didn't find any of these answers very useful.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2009

First of all, the OP was not dealing with the federal government, he was dealing with a consulting firm that acts as a middle-man between contractors and the government. I work with engineers that work for these types of firms all the time. They tend to drug test strenuously. In fact, most government contractors drug test strenuously, including my own employer which mandates both an entrance screening as a condition for employment as well as random drug screenings.

When you hear stories about "oh, the DoD doesn't care about drug use", this is usually referring to past incidents of drug use affecting someone's chances of getting a security clearance. Proof of current and on-going use of drugs is almost certainly an issue; if anyone is thinking of applying for a government job or a government contractor, they should almost certainly stop using drugs ASAP.

That said, one positive test would not necessarily have caused either dismissal or some sort of criminal penalty. I've heard of situations that went both ways. It sucks, but I think withdrawing your application was a safe bet. You'll know better next time and hopefully will be better prepared.
posted by muddgirl at 6:27 PM on December 17, 2009

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