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What Happens if I Fail a Drug Test at Work in North Carolina?

- 5 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

In the United States, state, federal, and private employers observe the right to dictate their terms of employment. Not only do many employers across the nation require you to take a drug test during the interview process, but some routinely drug test all employees. As a worker and a citizen, you have a right to privacy. However, drug abuse in the workplace is dangerous and can dampen workplace attitudes, productivity, and your company’s bottom line.

Whether you tried a substance for the first time, used recreational drugs on the weekend, or are secretly battling drug addiction, you may be wondering what will happen if you fail a drug test at work in North Carolina. While the exact answer may vary from one employer to the next, it’s important to understand North Carolina drug testing laws so you can educate yourself on what your rights are within the state.

Understanding North Carolina Drug Testing Laws

According to the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), “the Wage and Hour Bureau enforces the Controlled Substance Examination Regulation Act, which protects individuals from unreliable and inadequate examinations and screening, and ensures procedural requirements for the administration of controlled substance examinations are established.”[1]

In other words, the state of North Carolina has strict rules outlined in the Controlled Substance Examination Regulation Act that employers must abide by when it comes to administering drug tests to their employees. These rules are as follows:[2]

  • Employers must use reliable and minimally invasive examinations and screenings
  • Samples must be collected in a responsible and sanitary manner and may be collected on-site or at an approved laboratory
  • Drug testing must protect the dignity and integrity of the employee being tested
  • Prospective employees may undergo single-use testing where the results are displayed on-site
  • Current employee drug testing results shall only be uncovered at an approved laboratory
  • A positive result must be confirmed through secondary testing unless the examinee signs a waiver agreeing to the preliminary result
  • The examiner must follow the proper chain of custody protocols when handling the sample

Most importantly, if you fail a drug test at work in North Carolina, this act gives you the right to a retest at the same or another approved laboratory. Although your employer must cover the costs of the original test, you will be responsible for any costs associated with a retest.

Do Employers in North Carolina Have to Drug Test All Employees?

While North Carolina drug testing laws allow employers to screen job applicants and employees, it does not require them to do so. Employers must voluntarily choose to implement a drug-testing program if they want to screen their employees for substance abuse. However, there are some exceptions.

Federal law requires certain types of employers to conduct mandatory drug testing, particularly for jobs that are in safety-sensitive industries. Types of careers where drug-testing is obligatory include transportation, aviation, and contractors with the Department of Defense or NASA.

Whether drug testing is mandated by federal law or optional under North Carolina’s law, employers must follow the drug testing procedures outlined in the Controlled Substance Examination Regulation Act.

When Can My Employer Ask Me to Take a Drug Test?

North Carolina law gives employers the discretion to outline the circumstances and conditions that may lead to a drug test. Examples of situations where you may be asked to take a drug test include:

  • Applying for or interviewing for the position
  • After an accident that occurs on the job
  • Random drug testing of all employees
  • In safety-sensitive situations
  • Follow-up drug testing
  • Reasonable suspicion of drug abuse

Your employer must provide you with written notice of the drug test as well as your rights. Then, they may collect a urine, hair, or saliva sample to send off to the laboratory for screening.

What Happens if I Fail a Drug Test at Work in North Carolina?

If you fail a drug test at work, your sample must be re-tested to confirm the results. If the positive results are confirmed, your employer must notify you of a positive result within 30 days of when the results were mailed back to your employer from the lab. If you wish, you may request that your sample be re-tested by the same or another laboratory, at your expense.

Your employer is required to keep the results of your drug test confidential unless you provide authorization for them to release the information or for employment-related purposes, such as for performance evaluations or discipline.

Even if you fail a drug test at work, your job may still be protected. For example, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and other anti-discrimination laws permit the use of certain medications for medicinal use that would otherwise be illegal.[3] If you are legitimately prescribed a medication that causes you to fail a drug test, your job is protected.

Similarly, the state prohibits discrimination against employees for the lawful use of lawful products during non-working hours. If you smoked marijuana in a state where it is legal while off-the-clock, your drug test may not be able to be held against you. However, if your employer has proof that you have been abusing drugs or alcohol on the job, or if your drug use is affecting your work performance, it may be grounds for termination.

Find Help for a Drug Problem Before it’s Too Late

Drug addiction is a progressive and devastating condition that can cost you your financial freedom, healthy lifestyle, job security, and more. Without treatment, you’re likely to continue using drugs until they’ve taken everything important to you. Rather than worrying about passing a drug test at work, you should worry about getting the help you need to have a successful, meaningful career.

Here at Carolina Center for Recovery, we can work with you to help you keep your job while going to rehab. We can teach you the skills you need to control your substance use, improve your health, and reach your full potential at work. Don’t wait any longer. Call now to begin your recovery journey.