The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Pre-Employment Drug Testing In Illinois: A Primer

Finding a job (any job) in this economy is quite an achievement and reason for celebration. But while an employer may consider you the top candidate and informally offer the position, it often comes with one final test: The pre-employment drug screen.

Illinois law supports employers' prerogative for a workplace free of illegal drug use, according to a US Dept. of Labor list of state laws, even though non-work use of legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol are tolerated.

As we've discussed before, the use of medical marijuana (which may become legal in Illinois) is not exempt in states that allow such use. And despite criticism from those who believe employers have no business prying into the personal use of recreational drugs, there's nothing a Chicago employment lawyer can do to help you assert such a claim.

Now that the smoke is cleared, let's discuss how pre-employment drug screening works and how state law governs its application.

First of all, prospective employers may not require applicants (or current employees) to pay for a drug screen. And if you work for an organization or business that receives federal funding, drug testing often is automatic as a condition of the Drug Free Workplace Act, as explained by Suffolk University professor Donald Levitan.

Illinois has a state version of the above-referenced Act, so businesses that contract with the state or receive state funding may require a pre-employment drug screen.

Drug screening pursuant to the federal Act must comply with the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, as maintained by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. And while a requirement for a urine sample (or related specimen for testing) is considered a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, as explained by an article in eNotes, it doesn't really matter for prospective hires.

In other words, those offered a job on condition of submitting to a drug screen always have the option of declining. Of course, that means they have to look elsewhere for work.

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