Q: If there is an accident at work, can we send the injured employee for a drug test?

Call Mark Soycher at the HR Hotline: 860.244.1900.
Call Mark Soycher at the HR Hotline: 860.244.1900.

A: This question was answered in a 1996 federal court ruling in Connecticut, which held that under the state's drug testing law, a current employee cannot be required to submit to a drug test based solely on the occurrence of a work accident, and that an accident, by itself, is not indicative of impairment.

If there are other observable signs of impairment, however, such as dizziness, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, extreme nervousness, excited demeanor, or slowed reactions, then a drug test may be warranted based on those factors rather than the accident itself.

Connecticut's drug testing law says that a current employee may be required to submit to a drug test only where "the employer has reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol which adversely affects or could adversely affect job performance."

Although the Connecticut law applies only to urinalysis testing, it may be prudent to follow its standards for other forms of testing (for example, Breathalyzer, blood sample, saliva, hair sample) to avoid legal challenges, which can be expensive even if you win.

The medical personnel examining and treating your employee for the work injury may observe signs of impairment related to drug or alcohol use.

Whether or not a drug test in that context is warranted and/or permissible would be a very fact-specific determination and may require comparing the observations of a trained company manager and a medical provider.