Companies that do drug testing of applicants or are thinking about it will want to make note of this one.
The question before a federal court: Can you refuse to hire applicants who fail a drug test and then apply again later while “in recovery”?
By a 2-1 margin, a panel of judges ruled you can refuse the second application.
- An applicant for employment at the Pacific Maritime Association failed the company’s drug test that’s mandatory for all job seekers. Pacific Maritime has a “one-strike” rule for applicants – fail the drug test, and you suffer a lifetime ban on employment at the company.
- After the rejection, the applicant entered a certified drug-rehab program, got “clean” and re-applied at Pacific Maritime while still in the rehab program.
- The company again rejected the applicant, citing the one-strike rule against applicants who’ve failed the drug test. The applicant sued, arguing that the one-strike rule was discriminatory in that it violated the ADA protections for recovering drug abusers.
The court ruled in favor of the employer. The reason: The one-strike rule applied to all applicants at the time of their application. Later attempts at recovery by applicants need not be considered by the company.
Note: The ruling might have been different if the applicant had been in recovery at the time of the first application. A decision would have depended on several factors, including how long the applicant had been in recovery and whether a positive drug test resulted from “leftover” traces from before the time the applicant entered the rehab program.
Cite: Lopez v. Pacific Maritime Association.