California law does not require employers to drug test their employees unless doing so is necessary to comply with federal law.
Many employers, however, still conduct drug testing and require it as a condition of employment.
As a result, knowing your rights can help you avoid unnecessary and illegal drug tests by your employer.
Drug Testing in California
Under Article I, Section I of the California Constitution, Californians have an inalienable right to privacy. California courts interpret this section to give employees the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which extends to rights against drug tests under some circumstances.
California courts balance the right to privacy with the employer’s interest in regulating its employees. Legal analysis of this kind is highly fact specific, and no two cases are exactly alike. As a result, courts determine whether a drug test violates an employee’s right to privacy by considering several factors, such as the equipment used and how it is administered.
California Pre-Employment Drug Testing Laws
California drug test laws permit employers to drug test prospective employees. These drug tests must also maintain the applicant’s right to privacy. However, California courts have held that the protection is weaker for pre-employment drug testing because the employer does not have the same ability to observe prospective employees as it does its own employees.
As an employee, it is especially important to be aware that your employer can and likely does test for marijuana use. Even though marijuana is legal under state law, the California Supreme Court ruled in Ross v. RagingWire Telecomms, Inc. that employers may drug test employees for marijuana and terminate their employment if the employee fails the test. This is true regardless of whether the marijuana was recommended to you for medical reasons
Random Drug Testing in California
The constitutional right to privacy almost universally prohibits random drug testing in California. For most jobs, an employer must give notice to all current and prospective employees before a drug test. The only exceptions are for public jobs with a high degree of responsibility and jobs where public safety is concerned. For example, a construction company conducting random drug tests likely does not violate the right to privacy because public health and safety are involved.
When Is Employee Drug Testing Illegal?
Because California’s drug testing laws are factor-based and fact specific, drug testing is never universally illegal. However, there are certain practices an employer may follow that violate your rights as an employee, including:
- Requiring a particular job applicant to undergo drug testing and not others;
- Conducting the drug test in a manner that is unnecessarily intrusive on your right to privacy;
- Requiring employees to pay for company-mandated drug tests; and
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for employees in drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs.
You may also have a claim if your employer violates other rights granted under federal law. An attorney can help you determine whether you may have a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act or anti-discrimination laws.
Do I Have a Legal Case Against Drug Testing?
As mentioned elsewhere in this fact sheet, California’s drug test laws are highly dependent on the individual facts of each case. Whether you have a legal claim against your employer for requiring a drug test will depend on how those factors apply to your situation. An employment attorney can help you review your case to determine whether your right to privacy has been violated.
Hire a California Employment Lawyer
At Workplace Rights Law Group, we prioritize greater attention to each client over an enormous case load. Our attorneys’ past experience representing employers allows us to have a greater understanding of issues you will face. Contact us today or give us a call at 818-844-5200 for a free case review.