Can New York Employers Drug Test Their Employees?

Currently, New York does not have any law on its books when it comes to employers requiring drug tests. While federal law requires such testing in a few safety-sensitive industries (such as transportation or aviation), it does not require or prohibit drug testing in any other way in other work environments. For the most part, states have picked up the slack and adopted their own laws when it comes to whether a private employer can drug test its employees. New York, however, is not among these states.

Without a New York law directly addressing drug tests, this creates a legal vacuum for employees who might feel their rights were violated by drug discrimination. However, this does not mean that employees are without rights. In fact, there are a number of other discrimination laws that do not directly address drug tests but nonetheless can be used as a legal basis for an employee who believes his or her rights were violated by a drug test.

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides a legal foundation for any employer who was punished or terminated for taking legal medication for a disability. This includes prescribed medications and some drugs that would otherwise be illegal (such as opiates) but were legally prescribed for the disability. It is worth noting that this protection does not extend to medical marijuana, which is not legal in the state of New York.

Additionally, an employee can claim discrimination if he or she was singled out from among other employees based on race, age or gender. Because employer action taken on these bases is illegal, this includes drug-testing requirements.

Finally, an employee may make a claim for invasion of privacy if its drug-testing procedure does not offer certain privacy safeguards. For instance, if an employer requires an employee or applicant give a urine sample in from of others, that person may be able to make a claim for invasion of privacy.

Although drug testing is a grey area in New York, employees do have certain rights. If you have a question regarding drug testing in your workplace, consult the New York employment law attorneys at Derek T. Smith Law Group, PLLC today.

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