Do employers rule out people who take legally prescribed drugs?
June 12, 2017 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I have a job interview pending where they require a drug screening. I take nothing illegal, but I do sometimes take Xanax, as prescribed to me by my doctor, and I take a sleeping pill, also as prescribed. I never take more than the recommended amount. I can provide proof they were legally prescribed. Will this company (large home improvement store) reject my application based on the fact that I take these medications? Thanks.
posted by Crystal Fox to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No, they won't reject you, and it would likely be illegal for them to do so.

The drug screens are for things like marijuana and meth. If you have legal prescriptions, and anything shows up on your screening, you just provide your doctor's prescription and it's fine.
posted by erst at 10:42 AM on June 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

I take both of those things and passed a pre-employment drug screen. On the whole, employers are not looking for legal drugs. And if they are, you probably don't want to work there anyway.
posted by something something at 10:44 AM on June 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I am not aware of any states in which it is illegal to refuse to hire someone based on their use of prescription drugs, per se, although there are potentially ADA issues that could arise, depending on the circumstances. But I don't think most employers even screen for that kind of thing. They aren't splashing out for a full-scale autopsy toxicology report. They're looking for opiates and MJ.
posted by praemunire at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Anecdotally, a friend's husband was refused work and required to go through mandated drug training because of a positive result for (legally prescribed) ADD meds, though it was his union and not his employer doing the screen. It disrupted his career for a long time. Because of that, I stopped taking my own (legally prescribed) meds in advance of a job drug screen -- better safe than sorry. If the drugs are dangerous to stop taking though, don't risk your health for the sake of a job.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:44 AM on June 12, 2017

Yeah, I'm pretty sure you're not protected even if prescribed. Will most employees test for these drugs, let alone reject someone who is positive for them? No. But they can and some will. As far as I know. Might vary between states.
posted by blackzinfandel at 11:46 AM on June 12, 2017

marijuana can be legally prescribed in colorado - but employers still don't like it, and are free to fire/not hire.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:59 AM on June 12, 2017

Something that hasn't been mentioned yet and may be relevant, depending on your state and situation: Drug test administrators may ask you to disclose prescription medications and proof of prescription just prior to testing, and take that into consideration when providing a prospective employer with results. You may want to consider bringing bottles, notes, etc. with you on testing day.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:59 AM on June 12, 2017

I am someone who takes benzos periodically as well as my ADHD meds... and who has only ever had to prove my Adderall prescription. I can't say this never happens, but I would say it is highly, highly unlikely they will actually know. Don't volunteer anything they don't ask for. (But if you're working with heavy stuff or equipment, don't take benzos at work without having discussed it with your doctor first.) If they require you to say something, give them accurate information, but don't say anything until they ask. The testing is often done by an external entity anyway, and it's my understanding that at least typically, they do not provide information to the employer aside from the result.
posted by Sequence at 12:01 PM on June 12, 2017

Best answer: Employers do reject people for all kinds of reasons without regard to legality. What you're taking is very common, though, and it sounds like you're not operating heavy machinery. Short version: unlikely to be an issue. Slightly longer version: employers are more likely to care if what you're taking is narcotics or (medical) marijuana, but even then it's going to depend on the employer.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:15 PM on June 12, 2017

A lifetime ago, I was very well read in DOT drug testing and all the regulations and details involved.

Short version: You are almost certainly fine, WITH QUITE A FEW CAVEATS (IANAL, etc.)

Long version:

Most drug screens I have seen often model off of DOT since the volume of the DOT tests is ridiculously large and each non-DOT company would pay significantly less to just use the same tests versus testing for additional drugs.

DOT has a standard 5-panel screen which includes (IIRC) marijuana, cocaine, (meth)amphetamines, pcp and opiates.

After the rigamorale of the testing process (empty all of your pockets in a separate room, blue dye in the toilet to make sure water is not added to the sample, observing a solid washing of the hands because bleach can render the test inactive, etc. And, yeah, these are just the few things I remember from almost 20 years ago. Testing urine temperature and not being allowed to pee if you are wearing boots were others.), DOT almost completely sides on the side of the person offering the urine.

Example: A company cold take no negative action towards someone who has a test "pending" until the result actually came back positive.

More importantly, any "probable" test required a conversation between the donor and a Medical Review Officer (MRO). An MRO is just an M.D. who is specialized in knowing what the false positives will be.

For example, anything that ends in -caine (novocaine, lydocaine) will trigger a positive for cocaine. They will call you to ask if you have been to the dentist recently and they used one of those drugs. You will then have to have the dental office send documentation proving they used those drugs. If the dentist does that, your screen comes back negative.

Here are a few rays of hope and then all of the caveats.

1. If it's your typical big box home improvement store, they are looking for the DOT 5 screen and absolutely nothing else because anything else costs more money to test for.

2. I'm not even sure there is a urine test for Xanax. Just like there is no test for Human Growth Hormone, which was/is a thing in pro sports last I checked.


1. I'm actually a state employee now, versus working with DOT in an entirely unrelated field and the drug screening was COMPLETELY different. For reasons of bureacracy, I had to have two urine tests the same day. (My contractor status was renewed the same day I received offer of employment from the government agency.)

The first urine test went smooth as silk, as it was done on-site. I chatted with the guy about my experience in handling people's body fluids and everything was cordial.

The second test, which I had to drive 45 miles out of my way for, had the lady berate me the whole time, not allow me to finish reading the fine print and then asked me to verify that she dropped my urine in a locked drop box which she never took the key out of.

So, yeah, the process is never fun.

2. I really need to mention that DOT drug screens are highly regulated and one cannot refuse/offer employment until that drug screen clears. Your big box retailer, on the other hand, can do whatever they want. 95% of our negative results were back in 24 hours. (We paid a premium for that.) 99% of our positives showed up Friday at just about quitting time.

It would not surprise me at all for a big box to refuse an offer of a job to anyone who's drug screen took more than 48 hours. They won't tell you that's the reason. That is their right.

But, (burying the lede here), I would not worry about Xanax at all. If one can test for it, it would be really expensive to test for.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 9:47 PM on June 12, 2017

If you're applying at the big blue home improvement store their drug test is a cheek swab and tastes really nasty. Have a peppermint on hand for afterwards.

They are just looking for the "biggies" like illegal drugs or opiates.
posted by mightshould at 2:33 AM on June 13, 2017

There absolutely is a urine test for benzodiazepines (which is what Xanax is). This is a standard part of ER tox screens. I don't know what your employer tests for, but it's certainly possible they'll test for benzos.
posted by pecanpies at 5:01 AM on June 13, 2017

Response by poster: Just for clarification, we are talking about the orange store, not the blue one. The position is in merchandising. Not sure if this involves forklifts or not, which is why I wonder if benzos or use of sleep drugs would keep them from offering the position. All of this is very helpful. Thank you.
posted by Crystal Fox at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2017

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