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.
Dear Nancy replies:
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
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.