Washington Drug Testing Laws 2024

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Washington Drug Testing Laws 2024

The Washington Administrative Code 357-37-200 (WAC 357-37-200) allows employers in the state to establish drug-free work policies. However, they must have written workplace drug testing policies before enforcing employee drug testing. Their drug testing policies must also be widely circulated and given to every employee before drug testing can commence.

In 2023, Washington enacted Senate Bill 5123 (RCW 49.44.240) to prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants because of their previous use of cannabis. The law stipulates that the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in the specimen of a job applicant should not be a discriminatory factor against them.

What Kinds of Drug Tests Can Employers Conduct in Washington?

Washington allows employers to test employees for all controlled substances, including cocaine, marijuana, opioid, peyote, meth, PCP, dopamine, MDMA, and barbiturates. While the psychoactive effects of marijuana wear off after about 5 hours, the THC metabolites can remain detectable in body fluids up to 30 days after use. Washington allows employers to collect saliva, blood, and urine samples from employees to test for THC metabolites. However, Senate Bill 5123 limits the use of marijuana test results in hiring new employees. The law prohibits employers in Washington from discriminating against applicants based on the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their systems.

The kinds of drug tests allowed in the workplace depend on the dictates of the workplace drug testing policies. WAC 357.37.200 allows the following kinds of tests by employers:

  • Pre-employment test: This test is done as part of a recruitment process and as a condition for employment. From January 1, 2024, the presence of non-psychoactive THC metabolites in the body can no longer be used as a discriminating factor against an applicant
  • Reasonable suspicion test: An employer must have specific objective grounds to believe that an employee's performance is impaired by drug use before reasonable suspicion test can be conducted in Washington
  • Post-accident test: This test is carried out on employees involved in workplace accidents. It is used to determine if the use of drugs was a contributory factor to such accidents

Can Employers Do Random Drug Testing in Washington?

Yes. Per WAC 357.37.200, employers in Washington can subject certain employees to random drug tests. Employees who can be subjected to random blood tests in Washington are:

  • Those administering or dispensing medications
  • Security officers
  • Those whose jobs require them to carry firearms

What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test in Washington for a Job?

Employees in Washington can be disciplined if they fail drug tests. Possible consequences of failing a drug test include mandatory drug rehabilitation, loss of compensation benefits, suspension, demotion, and termination of employment.

Washington offers protections for employees who fail drug tests if they fall into the following categories:

  • An employee who fails a drug test is protected from consequences if the employer fails to publicize the workplace drug test policy before the test
  • An employee who can show that a legally sanctioned drug test was discriminatory or biased may enjoy protection from the consequences of failing a drug test

It is advisable for employees who fail workplace drug tests in the state to seek counsel from Washington-licensed attorneys.

Can I Be Fired for Refusing a Drug Test in Washington?

Yes. Depending on the dictates of an employer’s workplace drug testing policy, an employee can be fired for refusing a workplace drug test. Refusing a workplace drug test has the same consequences as failing one. Possible protections from the consequences of refusing a drug test in Washington include the following:

  • The employee can show proof that the drug test was discriminatory against them
  • If the drug test violates their civil or human rights
  • Proof that the workplace drug testing policy was not sufficiently publicized and the employee is not aware of the policy

Can You Get Fired for Failing a Drug Test with a Medical Card in Washington?

Yes. Although the Washington Medical Cannabis Act protects medical marijuana patients from prosecution, it does not mandate employers to accommodate medical cannabis patients. The Revised Code of Washington, Chapter 69.51A.060 (7), permits employers to establish workplace drug policies without consideration for medical cannabis patients.

However, Senate Bill 5123 (RCW 49.44.240) protects applicants with medical marijuana cards. It prohibits employers from using the presence of non-psychoactive THC metabolites in the specimen of applicants as a discriminatory hiring condition from January 1, 2024. The law provides that where a job applicant is tested for cannabis by default, the result should not be provided to employers.

Can Employers Conduct Drug Tests on Applicants in Washington?

Washington allows employers to conduct drug tests on applicants provided advance written notice of the possibility of drug tests is given to them. Applicants who fail drug tests can be denied employment.

Per SB 5123, prior cannabis use cannot be used as a discriminatory factor. The results of applicants who test positive for non-psychoactive THC metabolites should not be submitted to employers. However, SB 5123 exempts certain positions from its dictates. An applicant must not test positive for cannabis for the following job roles:

  • Jobs that require federal security clearances or federal background checks
  • Law enforcement and fire department positions
  • Aerospace and airline industries
  • First responder positions
  • Corrections officers
  • Safety-sensitive positions that have the risk of death if an employee is impaired

Is Pre-Employment Drug Testing Allowed in Washington?

Washington allows pre-employment drug testing for applicants who have been offered conditional employment. Employers must have warned them of the possibility of pre-employment drug tests before they can resume work. New hires who fail drug tests can be denied employment. SB 5123 is also applicable to pre-employment drug testing. Applicants cannot be discriminated against because of their previous use of cannabis.

Does Washington Allow Public Agencies to Submit Employees to Workplace Drug Tests?

Yes, there are drug testing policies for state employees. Washington Executive Order 92-01 allows state employees to be tested for illegal drugs. State agencies are at liberty to establish and implement workplace drug policies for their employees. All positive drug test results must be confirmed with another drug testing method.

State employees who fail workplace drug tests face certain consequences. These include mandatory employee-assisted programs, demotions, suspensions, probation, and termination of employment. However, state employees cannot be fired without first offering to assist them in becoming drug-free. Hence, the first drug test failure of an employee may not lead to the termination of their employment in Washington.

Can Employers Choose to Create Drug-Free Workplace Policies?

Employers in Washington can choose to establish and implement workplace drug testing policies to prohibit the possession and use of illegal drugs in their workplaces. A Washington workplace policy must have the following:

  • A clear and concise drug-free policy statement
  • Procedures and methods for conducting the tests
  • Information about mandatory confirmatory tests for positive results
  • A statement confirming that opportunities will be given to employees to explain positive results
  • Consequences of failing or refusing a drug test
  • Methods and procedures to ensure confidentiality of test results

Employees Exempted From Washington Workplace Drug Testing Laws

Washington drug testing law does not have exemptions for employees. However, federal employees in Washington are subject to federal drug testing laws and are therefore exempted from state laws. Commercial transport workers in Washington are also regulated by federal drug testing laws.

What are the Requirements for Drug Testing Labs in Washington?

There are no laws stating requirements for drug testing laboratories in Washington. However, employers in the state can use laboratories certified by agencies like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

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