Can supervisor ask employee about a random drug test not related to the job?

I’m a supervisor and received a text from an employee because they had to submit to a random drug test and this drug test is not related to the employer. Does an employer have the right to ask the employee why they are having to submit to this random drug testing? Is it advisable to do so or should the employer avoid asking any questions related to this?

Rita Risser Chai replies:

The employer does not have the right to ask why they are submitting to the drug test, and it could be a violation of law if the employer asks why. The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, protects people who are undergoing drug abuse rehabilitation. There is also the general law of privacy, although arguably the employee did not treat the information as private by telling you. The safest approach is “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Posted 07-18-2017

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.