December 10, 2012

Refusing a Drug Test

Posted in Drug and Alcohol Testing, Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act tagged , , , , , at 12:10 pm by Tom Jacobson


The recent “legalization” of marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado has renewed concerns about how drug and alcohol use may impact the workplace. Regardless of what may be happening elsewhere, employers still have the right to insist on a sober workplace, and for Minnesota employers one of the best tools for maintaining that environment is a drug and alcohol testing policy that conforms to the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (MDATWA). One example shows how well such a policy can work.

A Minnesota employer was concerned about drug and alcohol use by employees and applicants for employment and wanted to require them submit to drug and alcohol testing.  So, after consulting with their attorney, the employer adopted a policy that conformed to MDATWA. As required by the law, they were careful to include a clause which noted the right of an employee to refuse testing and the consequences of refusal. Specifically, the policy explained that employees who refuse to test would be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.

After adopting the policy and properly communicating it to the workforce, the employer believed they had reasonable suspicion to test an employee (as allowed by MDATWA and as spelled out in the policy), so the employee was asked to undergo a test and was advised of the consequences for refusal. Rather than take the test, the employee refused and resigned. Thus, by being proactive and implementing the policy, the company created a situation that ultimately led to a relatively clean break between it an employee who the company believed was violating the policy.

What you need to know:  A drug and alcohol testing policy is one of the best tools a Minnesota employer can use to maintain a safe and sober workplace. However, such policies (and the implementation and application of them) must strictly comply to MDATWA. Employers who violate MDATWA can be held liable for damages and attorney’s fees, and the courts may order injunctions and other relief as well. Therefore, employers wishing to adopt such policies should consult with legal counsel to make sure their policy complies with the law.

For more information about this article, please contact me at

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2012 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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