Can You Be Denied Employment for a False Positive?

Many employers screen new employes with a drug test.
Many employers screen new employes with a drug test. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Drug testing for employment can sometimes be unreliable. If you test positive, it indicates the drug test found evidence of drugs in your urine. A false positive, however, will indicate the presence of a drug despite the person never consuming the drug, hence making it false. Many legal substances can cause false positive results. Knowing the laws in your state or city can help you understand the ramifications of a false positive for a pre-employment drug screen test.

Potential Employer's Options

What a potential employer can legally do about a positive drug test depends on the employer and its locality. Most employers will allow you to retake the drug test. However, each state and local government has a different set of rules regarding the legality and consequences associated with employment drug testing. One obvious possibility is not being hired after testing positive for drugs. But, not all employers have a zero-tolerance policy. Check your local laws to determine what applies in your area.

Legal Help

If you believe the denial of employment is due to a false positive drug result, contact an employment lawyer to help protect your rights in this situation. Legally, proving a false positive is exceedingly difficult as most drugs will leave your system within 24 hours. An employment lawyer may help to provide additional testing that is more concrete, such as hair sampling. Depending on the administered test, your lawyer can pull information from your history or past employment as evidence of the false positive. Nonetheless, this process can be expensive and you should only use this procedure when you have substantial evidence of a false positive.

False Positive Polygraph Pre-EmploymentTests

Should you return a false positive result on a pre-employment polygraph test, explore the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, which protects private sector employees from the requirement of a polygraph test. However, numerous exceptions to this law exist. For instance, defense, energy or law enforcement employers under contract to the federal government; armored car, burglar alarm system, and security personnel associated with states' and municipalities' areas of health or safety; as well as drug manufacturers, distributors and dispensers are all exempt from the restrictions of this law.

Possible Causes of False Positive Results

Many legal substances are liable to cause a false positive drug test. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can influence a false positive. Substances that can potentially cause a marijuana false positive include Ibuprofen, shampoo, and tanning lotion. Nasal sprays or diet drugs that contain ephedrine or phenypropanolamine can cause false positives for amphetamines. Muffins with poppy seeds can cause a positive results for opiates, as well.

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