With an increasing number of employees just saying “yes” to drugs these days, you can expect more Indiana companies to develop random drug-testing programs and establish rules that allow them to fire workers who test positive or don’t cooperate with the test.
One note of caution: Make sure you can demonstrate that your drug test results are accurate and reliable.
If you can’t, it’s more likely the terminated employee will be able to collect unemployment compensation. Reason: If you can’t prove you had just cause to discharge the employee, you can’t avoid paying unemployment benefits. And if you can’t prove the drug test results, you can’t prove just cause.
Recent case: Casey White worked for the Owen County Highway Department as a truck driver. Owen County had a workplace rule that said employees who failed a random drug test or who failed to cooperate with drug testing were subject to immediate discharge.
When White received a call telling him he failed a drug test, he was sure there was a mistake. He’d never failed previous tests and claimed he never used drugs. So he called the Medical Review Officer and left a message questioning the test. He never heard back. Meanwhile, he was discharged based on the test results.
He filed for unemployment compensation and was awarded benefits. The county appealed. But the Court of Appeals of Indiana rejected the appeal after learning White had asked for—and failed to receive—evidence concerning the drug test. The county couldn’t identify the test or the cut-off level for reliability. It could report only that the lab said White failed.
Based on such sketchy evidence, the court said the county had failed to carry its burden of showing White was fired for just cause. (Owen County v. Indiana Department of Workforce Development and White, No. 93A02-0607-EX-562, Court of Appeals of Indiana, 2007)
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