Have you ever failed a pre-employment drug test?
June 9, 2007 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in hearing about any Mefis out there that have failed a pre-employment drug test, and how they handled issues with the hiring company and testing company.

Basically, I want to know how you were notified and what happened afterwards.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mod note: reminder: if anyone feels like following up via email to me, please do; I have a terribly short memory.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:13 PM on June 9, 2007

I've handled delivering the results from an HR perspective, handling notification for contract workers recently placed by an outside organization (with the test taken, but results pending). What has happened in the two or three cases I've handled is this:

1) I get a phone call from the rep from the staffing company telling me that there's a failed test. They generally don't disclose to me what that means, nor do I care (rules are rules, it doesn't matter which drug showed up). I'll call the contract worker's manager to set up step 2.

2) I then get the contract worker in a room (in my scenario, I've only handled this after they're already onsite), and let that person know we have a failed test result, and that any issues he/she has with contesting that need to go back to the testing company, as it's not beyond belief that the failed test is the lab's mistake. I do stress that the next step cannot come through my desk, we'll need to hear from the lab within the next day or two that another test has commenced and results will be pending.

Normally the contractor will claim it's got to be a mistake, that they don't know how this could have happened, etc... I don't editorialize or moralize, nor do I gossip about it around the water cooler after he's gone ("He was doing a Barbaro-level dose of ketamine, ha ha..."). The contractor is either going to contest the results, or he won't. Usually it's the latter.

3) I walk the guy back to his desk, let him gather what he needs, then walk him to his car (or her - women fail drug tests too).

4) He's generally long forgotten by the end of the week.

Firing someone is the ugliest thing HR people have to do, and there's usually a fairly detached and clinical sort of approach we take when we do it. If this is a big company, you should expect this type of reaction. If you're working with an agency to get you in the door, you're probably going to be getting the "I'm disappointed in you" talk from the recruiter, as you represented an income stream they thought they had in hand.

Whatever happens, instead of trying to beat a re-test through quasi-questionable means, I'd suggest following the advice of one of my favorite profs in college. He said that once you lose credibility with an organization, it's time to move on. Even if it's a legitimate mistaken positive that gets corrected, it's something that will possibly tag you throughout your career with that company. Think hard about going into a new employment situation with that sort of cloud hanging over your head.

(As far as what happens after that, it goes without saying that you shouldn't take a test you're unsure you can't pass. There are plenty of opportunities out there to avoid that scenario.)
posted by peacecorn at 3:43 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about being reported to the police, then I agree with Burhanistan that they most likely won't report it. In fact, a cousin of mine failed the drug test for the US Army (for marijuana), and was just quietly told that he failed the test, and could not enlist.
posted by twoporedomain at 3:50 PM on June 9, 2007

I had a friend who failed a random drug test as well. He was called in with the HR people to discuss why opiate traces were found in his sample.

They let him re-do the test when they discovered he had eaten a poppy seed bagel for breakfast. The next sample was clean.

I guess I am saying that there is some latitude for interpretation. Not that I am condoning drug use. Ever.

posted by fox_terrier_guy at 6:12 PM on June 9, 2007

There's another aspect to testing where a failure isn't necessarily a failure. My company does mandatory testing for drivers per DOT rules. Sometimes a test comes back as "Negative Dilute". The testing company can't determine if there are drugs or not, and it could be the result of someone trying to cheat the test by drinking lots of fluids. In that case, the testing company calls the employee and gives them 24 hours to get re-tested from the moment they receive the call. If they are not re-tested in time, then it is considered a failure by the testing company.
posted by saffry at 7:28 PM on June 9, 2007

After a spring break in Jamaica, my ex found out the job he really wanted required a drug test. A hair test, even.

He used all the weird ass shampoos he found referenced on usenet (quite a few years ago), took goldenseal, etc, etc.

He failed with flying colors. The testing company called him - a doctor or nurse telling him he tested positive for marijuana and asked him if there were any circumstances, etc. etc.

The company never called my ex back, no letter, nothing. Just radio silence.

My ex got a fantastic job somewhere else that didn't test.

The ex got a fantastic job with a smaller company a few weeks later that didn't test.
posted by Gucky at 8:38 PM on June 9, 2007

When a drug test comes back from the lab as "non-negative" (a test cannot be considered positive till what I describe below happens) then it goes to a doctor that is called an MRO (medical review officer).

Based on the results, an MRO may, or may not, contact the test taker to ask if they are on any prescribed medications or if there are other circumstances that could skew the results. (The poppy seed muffin, mentioned above, is not a legend, it is a real risk. Luckily opiates are "relatively" uncommon enough that seeing a large spike will usually make an MRO take notice.)

Then, the MRO will consider the evidence and then will call the test "positive" or "negative".

This is the result that is reported to the employer. These will be detailed results, outlining the levels of any detected drugs.

There is no way to appeal or have the results re-adjudicated. It might be possible to request another test, possibly at your own expense, though I would consider that "unlikely". You will likely have no further contact with the testing company after the sample is collected, except for a possible contact from the MRO, who may work for the employer, the testing company, the laboratory, or even a external party.

Then, the employer is free to do with those results what they wish. Some companies have a "consideration" for certain kinds of positive tests, maybe some sort of review or something... but the overwhelming majority that care enough to test have a "zero tolerance" policy, so testing positive with a low level of marijuana is identical to testing with a sky-high level of heroin.

Most companies will simply say "you did not pass the pre-employment drug screen, so therefore you are not eligible for hire" and rescind any offer you may have received. Even if it is a written offer, it will 99.9% say "contingent upon passing the mandatory drug screen" or some such.

The company I use to work for performed tens of thousands of drug screens for employers, and I never heard of an employer telling the police.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:19 PM on June 9, 2007

I've worked with several guys who have failed drug tests offshore, at dockside before the boat would take off. One guy pissed hot, and was told he failed. He was given a chance to piss again right then, and declined. He was fired.
Another guy pissed cold, meaning he had diluted the sample with toilet water. He also declined to piss again. He was fired and rehired a few days later after taking some drug-education course. He was then fired again a few weeks later for something unrelated.
I've also seen new hires come in and some time during the new hire training they'll disappear; not unusual in itself, but then an e-mail will come out saying so-and-so et al are not being offered employment. I guess it could be any number of things, but odds are it's drugs, I think.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:43 PM on June 9, 2007

« Older Please help me get this IT Support position.   |   I don't want to waste a whole sixpack if I don't... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.