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Can my employer terminate me without offering assistance, then report me to the state board of nurse examiners if I fail a drug test?

Question:

Dear Nancy,

I recently failed a drug test at work. I was terminated for violating hospital policy. I was never accused of impairment or endangering patients. Can my employer terminate me without offering me assistance (state peer assistance program), then report me to the state board of nurse examiners? My nurse practice act states the employer is obligated to report to BON if the nurse is suspected to be impaired in the workplace or the suspected impaired nurse endangered a patient. My first thought is since I was never caught using drugs and never accused of being impaired, then they have no just cause for reporting me to the BON. My second thought is if they wanted to report me they should have done so before terminating me by offering me voluntary peer assistance.

Mark

Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Mark,

Generally speaking, an employer has a right to enforce its policies fairly and consistently with all employees. This includes a policy concerning drug testing. It is difficult to respond specifically to your question insofar as it pertains to your employer’s policy and its obligation to offer you voluntary peer assistance and/or reporting you to the board of nursing. However, some general comments can
be made.

First, your positive drug test is a problem in that the positive result is not acceptable. Obviously, one should not report for work under the influence of any medication that might impair one’s judgment. Although you did not say what the test was positive for, it is assumed the employer followed its policy after an investigation and after discussing the positive result with you.

You also stated your nurse practice act requires the employer to report nurse to the board of nursing if the nurse is “suspected” of being impaired in the workplace. Again, without knowing exactly what the nurse practice act factually says, a positive drug test most likely supports a suspicion that the person is or may be impaired.

It is interesting you take the position that the employer should have offered you the voluntary peer assistance program. If you do not have a chemical use problem, this option would not be one attractive to you. In fact, in such a program, you would have to agree that you did indeed have a chemical use or abuse problem.

Whether or not you believe you were not impaired, the fact remains you tested positive for a drug test resulting in your termination. If you believe this was an unwarranted termination, you might consider grieving the termination. You also could seek an opinion from a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state to obtain specific advice about how to challenge the termination and how to defend yourself before the board of nursing.

Sincerely,
Nancy

By | 2014-11-21T00:00:00-05:00 November 21st, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|2 Comments

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    Lori Nolen October 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    If a nurse is going to a pain clinic for chronic pain, she/he is protected under the disability act and cannot be terminated for a positive drug test. Just as some nurses have ADHD they can not be fired for taking adderall or any drug used for this disorder. Employers should be careful whom they fire, when their employees come back with a positive drug test. They should be talking to them in private about the drug test. Don’t assume anything when you haven’t asked! There are psychotropic drugs out there that show up on a drug test that make it look like people are taking heroin. Making someone out to be a drug abuser when they are not is a law suit waiting to happen. Ask questions first, save yourself and others the embarrassmnet of looking like you know nothing because you jump to conclusions about someone character that are simply not true. Peoples careers are at stake here. Be smart and use your thinking skills. Not everyone who has a positive dug test are all drug addicts, some people live with either chronic pain or ADHD, anxiety disorders, mental health issues. You can’t tell who is a drug abuser or who is not and therefore you need to ask questions. Ask for proof that a person is in fact prescribed a medication that showed up on a test. Also a person being tested can show the Rx bottle to the person doing the testing.

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    Carole January 8, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    My daughters employer every other week is asking her for a drug test she’s been unfairly targeted couple of other employees do not like her my daughter has socialization problems she is an LNA and she’s ADHD And anxiety and depression. It always comes up positive now the board of nursing wants her to be drug tested it’s going to come up positive again every drug test is positive she shows her prescription bottle pills I feel that because of her disability they keep targeting her how do we make this stop this is unfair and she is getting more stressed and more anxious every time.

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