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Can I be fired for refusing a drug test?

If your employer at a private company in California tells you that you must take a drug test, you may wonder if state law allows it. Unfortunately, the answer to that is not necessarily simple. According to the State of California’s Employment Development Department, there are instances where you could be terminated because of your refusal. However, some court cases have determined that wrongful termination took place after an employee was fired for refusing to take a random drug test.

The nature of your job could affect your employer's need to ensure that you are not impaired in any way. A hazardous environment is characterized by whether your job duties could cause serious injuries to you or to someone else. Even in such an environment, the employer typically still needs to have a reason to believe that you may be under the influence of drugs.

Reasonable suspicion could refer to behaviors or appearance, but it must be based on specific, objective facts. Any rational person should be able to review these facts and come up with that same opinion. An employer may be able to require a drug test without probable cause if there is previous history of drug use and you are in a dangerous occupation.

Many times, the California court system has ruled that requiring a random drug test violates an employee’s right to privacy because it is in effect a search, and therefore subject to the Fourth Amendment, which outlaws unreasonable searches. This information does not apply to federal occupations and some others specifically identified by law. It is educational in nature and should not be interpreted as legal advice. 

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