Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

May 13, 2014

Some drug testing methods may have a disparate impact

Q&ADrug and Alcohol 

Q: We would really rather not have to collect urine samples from our employees; can we perform drug tests on hair samples instead?

A: Drug testing through hair samples can be tempting to employers, but it’s probably not the best option. In a recent case, a group of African-American police officers and candidates challenged their department’s practice of drug testing via hair samples, citing a higher rate of positive tests for African-American officers and candidates relative to the test results for their Caucasian counterparts. The employees provided evidence that the hair of African-Americans binds and retains drug residue to a greater extent than the hair of other racial groups. An appeals court is allowing the case to proceed to trial to determine if there are alternate reasonable means for determining drug use (Jones v. City of Boston, 1st Cir, May 2014).

Keep in mind that hair drug tests do not detect recent drug use, as the hair needs about a week to grow out above the scalp. Contact your Vigilant staff representative if you have questions about drug testing.

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