Pennsylvania Drug Testing Laws 2024

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Pennsylvania Drug Testing Laws 2024

Pennsylvania's drug testing laws neither mandate nor restrict employers from testing employees for the use of banned substances. The laws only seek to achieve a balance between the privacy rights of employees and promoting drug-free workplace environments. The state's drug testing laws guide drug testing procedures for private and public employers, including specific industries like healthcare and transportation.

Although drug testing is voluntary and must be done with the employee's consent, specific circumstances may arise, such as for employees in safety-sensitive positions or those governed by federal regulations, where drug tests are mandatory.

While the state allows employers to develop workplace drug-free policies, employers who require employees to undergo drug testing must communicate potential disciplinary actions to employees. Also, employers must ensure that only authorized individuals can access drug test results and related information.

While there is limited protection for employees under the state’s drug testing law, Pennsylvania's medical marijuana legalization law protects medical marijuana users from discrimination in cases where they fail marijuana drug tests. However, the state does not require employers to permit marijuana use in the workplace, even for approved medical marijuana users.

Employees who feel their rights have been infringed regarding drug testing can explore legal avenues for recourse. If an employer is found to violate Pennsylvania's drug testing laws, employees can take legal action to address the issue and potentially obtain damages. Among the potential legal remedies available to employees are:

Note that Pennsylvania municipalities may have slightly varying drug testing laws. Mayor Jim Kenney signed a local ordinance into law on April 28, 2021, prohibiting pre-employment drug tests for marijuana in the city. In a similar vein, in Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, Inc., the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed an earlier decision made by the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, finding that the state's medical marijuana law allows authorized medical marijuana users to sue employers who take adverse job actions based on positive results on marijuana drug tests.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recognized an implied right for patients certified to use medical marijuana under 35 P.S. Health and Safety § 10231.2103 to file lawsuits against employers who make adverse job decisions solely based on their marijuana use.

What Kinds of Drug Tests Can Employers Conduct in Pennsylvania?

Several drug test types are permitted in Pennsylvania. Standard drug tests used by employers to screen for the presence of marijuana include urine, blood, hair, and oral fluid drug tests. Urine drug tests are widely used among employers. It involves collecting a urine sample from an applicant or employee and analyzing it for the presence of the metabolites of THC or other controlled substances.

Besides marijuana, a urine sample can also be used to test for the presence of cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, methamphetamines, methadone, barbiturates, propoxyphene, benzodiazepines, phencyclidine, and anabolic steroids.

Pennsylvania employers may test employees in a variety of circumstances, including when there is a reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of drugs. The suspicion may be based on specific observations, indicators, or behaviors stated in the employer's drug testing policy. Usually, employers will document the circumstances and facts leading to the suspicion in order to ensure transparency in the testing process. Other circumstances in which an employer may drug test applicants or employees include pre-employment, post-accident, and random cases.

Can Employers Do Random Drug Testing in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania permits employers to carry out unannounced random drug tests on employees. This form of testing typically employs a randomized selection method, ensuring an equal chance for all employees to be selected for the test.

What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test in Pennsylvania for a Job?

In the event of a failed drug test, an applicant or employee faces disciplinary measures from their employer, potentially culminating in termination. Nevertheless, there are specific constraints on what actions employers can take in response to a failed drug test. Note that a failed drug test cannot serve as the exclusive grounds for an employer to deny an employee unemployment benefits. Moreover, employers are obligated to adhere to stipulated screening procedures when conducting drug tests and managing the outcomes to safeguard employees' privacy rights.

Can I Be Fired for Refusing a Drug Test in Pennsylvania?

Although an employee has the right to refuse to submit to a drug test, refusing a drug test may have consequences, including termination, depending on the employer's workplace drug testing policies. Therefore, employees are advised to familiarize themselves with their employer’s drug testing policies before refusing to undergo a drug test.

Can You Get Fired for Failing a Drug Test with a Medical Card in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Act extends specific anti-discrimination protections to employees with valid medical marijuana cards. Specifically, the law protects individuals in matters of hiring, termination, and protection against retaliation.

According to the Act, employers are prohibited from discharging, refusing to hire, or discriminating against patients concerning their compensation or privileges solely based on their status as a medical marijuana cardholder. This indicates that, among other considerations, an employer or potential employer cannot legally terminate employment or reject an applicant solely due to their use of medical marijuana.

This protection covers various scenarios, including pre-employment and random drug testing. Essentially, individuals cannot be denied employment or, in most instances, terminated from an existing job based on a positive marijuana drug test. As long as an employee is a resident of Pennsylvania, possesses a valid medical marijuana card, and only uses medical marijuana outside of work hours, termination solely on the grounds of being a medical marijuana patient is prohibited.

Can Employers Conduct Drug Tests on Applicants in Pennsylvania?

Employers can conduct drug tests on applicants as long as such a requirement does not violate the applicant's privacy or is carried out discriminately. There is mention of employment protections for applicants under Pennsylvania drug testing laws. Employers can refuse to hire applicants who fail an employer-mandated drug test. Any applicant who refuses to participate in a drug test may also be considered to have failed the drug tests and penalized accordingly.

Is Pre-Employment Drug Testing Allowed in Pennsylvania?

Since Pennsylvania does not explicitly mandate or prohibit pre-employment drug tests, employers may require applicants to submit to pre-employment drug tests if such an act complies with the employer's drug test policy. Note that in April 2021, the Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit pre-employment drug tests for marijuana. The law only applies to employers and employees in the city and went into effect on January 1, 2022. However, the city made a few exceptions to the statutes of the ordinance, such as for employers:

  • In companies hiring for jobs requiring commercial driver's licenses
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • In companies hiring for positions to care for disabled people, medical patients, children, and other vulnerable populations
  • Hiring employees for positions that may significantly affect the safety or health of the public or other employees

The Philadelphia City ordinance also provides an exception for any drug testing that may be required by state or federal laws for security or safety purposes.

Does Pennsylvania Allow Public Agencies to Submit Employees to Workplace Drug Tests?

Pennsylvania drug testing laws apply to public and private employers. The protection provisions available under the state laws apply to state, local, and private employees.

Can Employers Choose to Create Drug-Free Workplace Policies?

Employers in Pennsylvania have the right to establish and enforce drug testing policies and procedures to foster a drug-free workplace. These policies must adhere to the state's drug testing guidelines, encompassing aspects such as testing protocols, result confidentiality, and the protection of employee rights.

Employees Exempted From Pennsylvania Workplace Drug Testing Laws

While Pennsylvania's drug testing laws provide drug screening guidelines for employers and protections for employees, there are exceptions and specific circumstances that may impact the application of these laws. Some of these exceptions include:

  • Federal drug testing requirements for some industries, such as transportation or aviation, which supersedes state laws
  • Drug testing in the context of collective bargaining agreements outlining specific procedures and limitations
  • Drug testing for safety-sensitive positions or positions involving working with vulnerable populations, such as elderly citizens or children

What are the Requirements for Drug Testing Labs in Pennsylvania?

The State Department of Health has the responsibility for approving laboratories performing analyses of human urine for drugs subject to abuse. According to the State Department of Health, laboratories conducting analyses for substances of abuse must be licensed in accordance with federal statutes and under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. The laboratory must be registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Department of Justice as an analytical laboratory and must hold a currently valid registration number. Consequently, employers generally use Pennsylvania-approved laboratories with SAMHSA certifications from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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