Don’t run from the law, embrace it!

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(July 21, 2009) Recently I had a conversation with a multi-state employer who had lost an unemployment battle in Iowa. The employee applying for benefits was fired for testing positive for drug use. The Administrative Law Judge, when ruling against the employer, detailed the many ways the company drug testing program violated state law.

In response to this perceived “harsh” ruling the employer stopped testing. After some time passed without testing a serious workplace accident occurred and three injured workers were drug tested. They all tested positive! The employer contacted me for help in re-implementing their testing program.

The moral of this story (as a lawyer I apologize for using the word “moral”) is that employers shouldn’t abandon their drug test programs just because compliance with the laws may be difficult. Those laws should be embraced.

The law is an employer’s blueprint for protection.

The Iowa drug testing law (Sec. 730.5) is very detailed. It can be viewed as both limiting employers but also very permissive in terms of explaining what employers can do. As an example the Iowa law not only permits random testing of all employees but it is the only state law permitting random testing of some facilities and not others at the employer’s discretion.

The Iowa law tells you what you can and can’t do, who you can test, how to test, where you can test, what to test for and what discipline can be imposed in the event of a positive or refusal. Yes, there are more details to worry about than exist in some other states and some things to do like sending a written notice of a positive by certified mail. But, if you do these things you get the benefits of the law. Heck, (an Iowa term from one who grew up there), even the details of what the written notice of a positive must include have been provided by the state supreme court.

What more do you want?