What Happens if You Fail a Pre-Employment Drug Test - Salarship (2023)

Drug testing is a relatively standard occurrence in the United States. Failing a drug test may seem like a rather dismal experience, but since the U.S. is governed by both federal and state laws, the consequences of failure will vary from place to place.

If you fail a pre-employment drug test commissioned after an interview, you may not be accepted for the position in question. However, failing a drug test may not necessarily mean immediate rejection in some circumstances, though it’s the most common result.

In this article, we will cover the consequences of failing drug screening, the possibility of countering a positive test result, and whether medical review officers write the results on your permanent record. Also, find out how you’ll know if you failed the drug test and your chances of retaking it.

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Possible Outcomes After Failing a Pre-Employment Drug Test

A few things might happen after you fail a pre-employment drug test. Depending on the state in which you reside, you may be barred from applying for a particular position in a company, or you might be able to contest the result.

Here are a few of the possible outcomes after failing a pre-employment drug test:

  • The employer may terminate your application. If this happens, you may still be able to reapply for the position at a later date or apply for any other jobs in the same company.
  • You may be allowed to attend a rehabilitation program before being given a chance to reapply for the position at hand. If this happens, you’ll likely be obliged to retake the test after you’ve finished the program.
  • If you’re a recreational user, there’s a chance that your employer will give you another opportunity to retake the test at a later date. Depending on the position, it may not affect your chances of employment, although this is rare.
  • If you’re applying for a truck driver position at the Department of Transport, they’ll most likely not offer you the job you applied for. This is because they have slightly different rules from other corporations due to the nature of the work.
  • If the position you’ve applied for is particularly difficult for the employer to fill, then you may still have a chance at the job. If finding a suitable candidate proves significantly more difficult than usual, they may still consider you and not outright reject your application.

For the most part, the outcome of failing a pre-employment drug screening usually depends on a couple of things. What happens next depends upon the nature of the work and the company that has asked for the test.

Drug testing procedures tend to cost companies a relatively significant amount of money. If a potential employer asks you to take one before offering you the job, it likely means it’s essential that their employees are drug-free.

Keep in mind that you’re required to give your consent before undergoing any tests. You can refuse to take a random drug test, but that might be a red flag that may disqualify you from getting a job offer.

Can You Counter Positive Drug Tests?

It stands to be said that there are many occasions in which a drug test might not be completely accurate. False positives can often happen, primarily due to other medications the employee might be taking or poor conditions at the lab while testing. If that’s the case, can you counter your drug test result?

You can counter positive drug tests, primarily if you can provide proof that you’re taking a medication that might have affected the results. Since many over-the-counter drugs (and prescription) can affect the results of a drug test, employers should keep that in mind in case of a failed result.

For example, police officers who take Phentermine, which is an amphetamine-like substance, will fail their urinalysis even though they did not commit any crime. This is why knowing which medications might have affected a drug test result can help you determine whether or not you have a legitimate case when attempting to overturn a false positive drug test.

If you have a genuine reason to believe that your positive drug test should’ve been negative, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t attempt to counter it. Doing so protects your rights, especially if you know you haven’t ingested anything they’re testing for.

However, you can’t demand to retake the test since it’s entirely up to the employer’s discretion. In general, though, many employers might be willing to give you a second chance to prove yourself.

Does a Failed Pre-Employment Drug Test Go on Your Record?

Criminal records in the United States are generally taken pretty seriously. However, if you have an unspent conviction on your record, you may not get the jobs you prefer, and it may take some time before you can clear it completely.

However, pre-employment drug testing is usually done in a private capacity. In other words, it’s a procedure that takes place between you, the medical review officer, and the company that has asked for the test.

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A failed pre-employment drug test doesn’t go on your record. The potential employee and the company will receive the test results, but there’s no database that currently keeps your test results. They’re also certainly not subject to public records.

Generally speaking, if you fail your pre-employment drug test, the company in question isn’t allowed to disclose your results to any other prospective employer. This means that you can easily apply for a different job, and they won’t know that you’ve previously failed your drug test.

However, there are certain circumstances wherein a failed drug test appears on your public record. For example, if you’re on parole, then a positive drug test may result in a violation of your parole. In these instances, there’s a good chance your test result will appear on your public record — and you may even end up in prison.

Similarly, if you fail your pre-employment drug test at the Department of Transportation for any reason, the result will go on your record for around three years. This eliminates the possibility of reapplying for that particular job or any other job at DoT in the near future.

However, as mentioned, even if your drug test from the DoT were positive, you can still apply for jobs at other companies, and they won’t have access to your test results.

Can I Retake Pre-Employment Drug Tests?

As previously mentioned, if you’ve failed your drug test and want a second chance to prove yourself, you can always ask your employer. Keep in mind that decisions in these cases may vary, especially in certain types of jobs requiring higher safety levels.

You can retake a pre-employment drug test if the employer deems it acceptable. However, in some cases, you may have to fund the new test yourself if they agree. While you can retake a drug test, you won’t be asked to provide a new specimen to be tested.

If you retest a drug, the first sample you gave to the lab will be what they’ll use to test on the second occasion. It’s doubtful that you’ll be able to provide a new specimen unless you have specific mitigating circumstances that might allow it.

If you’re a recreational drug user, the better option would be to apply for jobs that don’t require drug testing prior to a job offer. Not all companies want to drug test their employees before a period of employment.

However, you can also be honest with any prospective employer and inform them that you’ve been using drugs recreationally recently. It’s better to be open than try to hide something that’ll likely appear in the test results.

Retaking the drug test might seem like a good option if you think it’ll give you a chance at the job you want, but if you have illicit drugs and alcohol in your system, it’s likely a waste of your and the employer’s time.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?

All drugs are different — they linger for varying periods, and people react differently to them depending on many factors. Understanding how drugs interact with your body and how long they remain is essential to passing a pre-employment drug test for your dream job.

Drugs can stay in your system for anywhere from two to 30 days. Chronic use of drugs, such as marijuana, may result in the drug lingering for much longer periods than in someone who uses it occasionally. How long it lasts also depends on other factors like weight, metabolism, and potency.

Someone who frequently uses a drug will likely find that it’ll be detectable in their system for a month or more. It’s something you should consider if you’re a recreational user and considering applying for a job.

Here are other things you also need to consider when taking a pre-employment drug test:

  • Type of test performed.
  • The overall state of your health and body weight.
  • Other medical issues you might have.
  • Tolerance to the drug in question.

For example, while alcohol is detectable with a urine drug test for only about five days, THC can be detected for much more extended periods depending on your tolerance to the drug.

Here are some other factors that can affect how long drugs stay in your system:

  • Your age can often be seen as an indicator of how long drugs remain detectable in a drug test. The main rule of thumb is that the older you get, the longer the drugs will stay in your system.
  • The percentage of body fat you have can affect how long drugs might linger in your body. Certain drugs cling to body fat, meaning they stay in your body for longer.
  • Drugs will stay in your system for a shorter period if you have a higher metabolism. Those with a slow metabolism can expect drugs to remain detectable for longer.

It’s always best to bear in mind that you can’t change how your body processes the drugs, and there are no definitive ways to speed up the process of passing a pre-employment drug test. The best way to ensure a negative test result is not to use drugs at all, even recreationally.

How To Know if You Failed a Drug Test for a Job

Getting a drug test can be a nerve-wracking experience, and waiting for the test results can often be stressful.

You and your potential employer will know the test results separately, but you’ll always be notified in some way if you failed a pre-employment drug test. Keep in mind, though, that you may not get the results at the same time as your employer.

You’ll know if you failed a drug test through either a letter in the post (usually from the laboratory which tested your sample), directly from the employer, or via a courier service employed by the laboratory. You may not get the results at the same time as your employer.

Positive drug test results might take longer to be released since a positive specimen may be tested more than once to ensure that the result isn’t false. On the other hand, a negative drug test result may be released within 24 hours, barring any complications.

If you decide you don’t want to wait for the test to be sent to you in the post, you can always call the hiring department in the company you applied for. They can always let you know the result if they have them.

Alternatively, you also have the right to contact the testing center yourself if you don’t want to wait to speak with your potential employer about the results.

Why Do Employers Conduct Pre-Employment Drug Tests?

At certain companies, such as the Department of Transportation, it’s quite clear why pre-employment drug testing exists since the operation of a vehicle requires absolute alertness that’s often compromised by drug use.

Employers conduct pre-employment drug tests for many reasons, including the desire to keep drug use outside the workplace. They aim to have a safer, healthier work environment and even lessen the possibility of employees taking frequent absences from work.

Employers want to avoid the stress involved in dealing with potential substance abuse cases. Once you’ve hired someone, it can get complicated to fire them, so pre-employment drug tests are often the only fair way to take out any reasonable suspicions they might have.

Around 40% of workers in the United States are subjected to work-related drug tests every year. However, many people think that pre-employment drug tests are unnecessary, especially if they’re discriminatory in any way.

For now, though, these drug tests are a routine activity in many workplaces. The best way to deal with a pre-employment test is to be prepared for it well in advance and avoid any substances you think an employer might want to test for during a job application.

Final Thoughts

There are many scenarios where you can fail a pre-employment drug test and be rejected for a job, but there are also a few situations in which you might still get the job you want.

Being fully prepared for any situation when you’re searching for a job will help you when one of the requirements is a drug test. It’ll undoubtedly assist you when negotiating the terms of your employment with a possible employer.



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