Do I have to take a potential employer's drug test?

Question

I'm applying to a temp agency for secretarial/administrative work, and I just found out they want me to take a drug test. I take Adderall for my attention deficit disorder (ADD). I've been taking it only as prescribed by my doctor, and it has really been a wonder drug for me. But will it show up on my drug test? And, if it does, can they refuse to hire me because of it? Can I just refuse to take the test in the first place?

Answer

First of all, Adderall will likely show up on your drug test. Not only is it an amphetamine, but it is also a frequently abused prescription medication. Because of this, you will test positive on the drug test.

However, that doesn't mean it will cost you the job. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees with disabilities. If your ADD meets the legal definition of a disability, and you are taking medication as prescribed for that disability, you can't be excluded from consideration on that basis.

In a typical workplace drug testing scenario, applicants who test positive have an opportunity to meet with a medical review officer and explain the result. In your case, you can explain that you are taking Adderall as prescribed by your physician. As proof, you should bring the bottle with you to show the prescription and dosage amount. If your test results match the information you have provided, your test result will be changed to "negative" for illegal drugs.

Information about your test results and your medication may be reported to your employer. However, the employer must abide by strict confidentiality requirements in handling this information. For example, it must be kept in a confidential file, separate from your regular personnel file, and it may be revealed only to those who have a true "need to know" (such as emergency medical staff).

As long as you can do your job, with or without a reasonable accommodation, your employer may not consider your disability in making job decisions, including whether or not to hire you. If your disability makes you unable to perform the essential duties of your job or poses a direct threat to your own health and safety on the job or the health and safety of your coworkers, then your employer may take action. Otherwise, you are protected.

As to whether you have to take the drug test in the first place, that is up to you. Generally speaking though, employers have the right to refuse to hire anyone who won't take a drug test. So, while the employer cannot physically force you to take the test, the consequences of saying no are pretty severe. If you want the job, you must take the test.

Your state may give you certain rights in the testing process, such as the right to advance notice or to have a retest if you dispute a positive result. (To find out your state's rules, see Nolo's State Laws on Drug Testing page.)

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