February 20, 2019

Can a city require drug testing for employees?

When drug testing city employees, a city must be aware of the legal obstacles that a public employer faces, as there are many situations in which drug testing will not be allowed. Nevertheless, there are instances when a public employer may require drug testing that has been upheld by the courts. Drug testing may be appropriate in the following situations:

1. Pre-employment testing performed on applicants for employment but only after a conditional offer of employment has been made;

2. Random testing performed on federally regulated employees (i.e., CDL drivers, gas pipeline workers, FAA), and other safety sensitive employees (i.e., police, fire fighters, dispatchers);

3. Reasonable suspicion testing pursuant to city policy;

4. Post-accident testing for certain workplace accidents; or

5. Return-to-duty testing for a person who has completed a substance abuse program and is requesting a return to his or her job.

Because of the complexity of and various legal restrictions and concerns involved with the topics listed above, a city should have a well-written, thorough drug testing policy in place and work closely with its city attorney to develop and implement this policy. For examples of drug testing policies, you can contact the KLC Department for Municipal Law and Training at 800-876-4552.

The City Officials Legal Handbook addresses this topic as well as other employment concerns.