What To Do After Receiving a Drug Test Result
By Sharon Bottcher, Director of Policy Services at Current Consulting Group (CCG)
Updated by CCG Staff Writer & Editor Adam Hall, October 2022
This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.
When an employer decides to implement a drug and alcohol testing program, the requirements and procedures prior to receiving the results are often discussed as part of the implementation of the program. However, the process after results are received often remains uncertain, as this step is not typically reviewed at the onset of the program.
It is important to understand the entire process of the testing program from start to finish. What comes after the test results are received is a crucial component to a reliable drug testing program.
Federal regulations, state laws, or company policy may all influence an employer’s process when receiving a result. There are various steps an employer should take after a test result is reported by the Medical Review Officer (MRO), which is the individual responsible for reviewing all drug test results prior to reporting an actionable result to an employer. These steps may include but are not limited to the following:
- Inform the applicant/employee of the test result
- Provide them with a copy of the test result
- Inform them of their right to explain the positive result
- Provide the opportunity to request a confirmation retest of the original sample
- Explain the consequences of the test result to the applicant/employee
In this article we will highlight the result notification requirements using several state laws as examples. There are several states and cities that have mandatory or voluntary result notification requirements. It is advised that a written notice of positive test results be provided, but some states may also require written notice of a negative test result as well. In addition, there may be a specific timeframe wherein an employer must report the test result.
Examples of states with mandatory laws include:
- Boulder, Colorado requires employers to provide a copy to an employee of all records maintained of his/her initial positive confirmatory test results upon request.
- Maryland requires employers to notify employees and applicants (in person or by certified mail) within 30 days of the positive test result.
- Iowa requires employers to provide a notice to employees and applicants who receive a confirmed positive test result.
- Montana requires employers to provide an employee who has been tested under any qualified testing program described in Montana Title 39-2-209 with a copy of the test report.
- Minnesota requires employers to notify employees and applicants in writing of both positive and negative results within 3 days of receipt of the result.
- North Carolina requires employers to notify employees of results within 30 days from the time that the results are mailed or otherwise delivered to the employer.
- South Carolina requires employers to notify employees and applicants of their result within 24 hours of the time the employer receives the test results.
A sampling of states that have voluntary laws regarding notification of test results include:
- Alabama requires an employer to provide written notice to the applicant or employee within five (5) days of a verified positive test result.
- Florida mandates an employer to provide written notification of a confirmed positive test result within five (5) days of receipt of the result.
- Georgia requires an employer to provide a written notice within five (5) working days of receipt of verified positive test results to both applicants and employees.
- Idaho requires employers to provide employees who test positive for drugs or alcohol written notice of that test result, including the type of substance involved.
- Mississippi requires an employer to provide a written notice within five (5) working days after receipt of a positive confirmed test result from the laboratory.
The above are just a few examples of state specific requirements for result notification. Employers are advised to review the state laws that apply to them to ensure that their drug testing program meets all applicable legal requirements.
In the absence of specific regulations or guidelines, it is recommended that all options be clearly outlined in the company policy and followed carefully. As a consideration to employees and for ease of managing the testing program, an employer may follow a more stringent reporting requirement and provide written notification of test results to applicants and employees when the law does not specify any reporting requirements.
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