Iowa: State Supreme Court Clarifies Employee Drug Testing Rules


All Employers with IA Employees


June 25, 2021


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The Iowa Supreme Court recently weighed in on two cases involving Iowa’s drug testing law, clarifying employer obligations and testing processes.

In Woods v. Charles Gabus Ford, Inc., the Iowa Supreme Court stated that an employer who failed to include the cost of a confirmatory drug retest in the required employee notice violated state law. There, an employee failed a random drug test. The employer sent the required employee notice of the failed drug screen and the ability of the employee to retest at the employee’s own expense; however, the notice did not indicate the cost of a confirmatory retest. The court stated that the omission of this information prohibited the employee from making an informed decision about whether or not to retest, regardless of whether or not the employee was likely to retest. Additionally, the court stated that sending the employee notice via certified mail, but not return receipt requested, still substantially complied with requirements of the Iowa drug testing law.

In Dix v. Casey’s General Stores, Inc., the Iowa Supreme Court stated that employers who substantially comply with Iowa Code Section 730.5 are only immune from non-statutory claims (e.g., wrongful termination), but not statutory claims, like a violation of Section 730.5. It also clarified the definition of “safety-sensitive position” and timing of certain notice requirements.

There, an employer conducted mass testing of their warehouse workers, because the employer deemed the warehouse to involve safety-sensitive jobs. Two employees who failed the testing were on light duty. The court stated that a “safety-sensitive position” is based on the actual duties of the job, not just the work location. Because of the nature of the light-duty work of two of the employees, they were not deemed to be working in safety-sensitive positions, even though they were performed in the warehouse, and should not have been tested as part of the employer’s safety-sensitive worker population.

Additionally, the employer provided a list of tested substances to employees as part of its drug testing policy distributed a couple of months prior to the actual testing. Although the court did not find this to be a violation, it stated that employers should provide the list of tested substances at the time of the testing.

Action Items

  1. Have drug testing policies and procedures reviewed for compliance.
  2. Consistently adhere to reviewed drug testing policy.
  3. Update drug result notifications to include required information.
  4. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

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