What Is a Regulated Drug Test?

In 1987, the Connecticut legislature passed Public Act 87-551, entitled An Act Concerning Drug Testing in the Workplace, which imposed restrictions on employer-required drug testing (now found at Sections 31-51t et seq of the General Statutes). In general, prospective employees may be required to submit to a drug test as part of the application procedure, but after hire, employees can be tested only if the employer has reasonable suspicion of drug use or if a test is otherwise permitted by law.

However, this is not a blanket restriction on drug testing.  Actually, the statute applies only to one specific type of test, the urinalysis drug test.  There is no restriction on employer use of other, more recent drug testing methodologies.

This anomaly was highlighted in a recent decision in the Waterbury Superior Court entitled Schofield v. Loureiro Engineering Associates, Inc. The plaintiff was a newly-hired employee who was fired after a hair drug test ordered by his employer reported positive results for cocaine and marijuana.  The employee sued for wrongful discharge, claiming that his termination violated the public policy against random drug testing which could be found in the drug testing statute.

But the court noted that the employer did not violate a statutory provision because the legislature had chosen to impose restrictions on private employers only when they sought to compel an employee to submit to urinalysis.  Employers may, even absent reasonable suspicion,  require toxicology drug screening by saliva testing or hair testing or any other valid non-urinalysis drug test.

The court was rather critical of the legislature, describing the failure to update the 1987 statute as a seemingly irrational omission.  However, the court stated that changing the law is for the legislature, not the judiciary, regardless of a judge’s temptation to remedy the incompleteness of the legislature’s work.

Given the legislature’s willingness to regulate private employment, the restriction on random drug testing may someday soon be expanded to a general prohibition.  But for now, employers may test current employees as they wish, provided that they utilize testing methodologies other than urinalysis.

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