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False positives a danger for hair follicle drug testing

California workers who are required to submit to drug testing may return false positives due to secondhand smoke on hair follicle tests based on a new study out of Germany. Hair follicle tests are widely considered to be reliable proof of drug use, but the study shows that traces of cannabis can occur through hands, sweat or second-hand smoke.

In the United States, urine tests are used in government, and many private companies also prefer to use urine tests over other types of testing. In 2014, Quest Diagnostics performed over 210,000 hair follicle tests, over 6.6 million urine tests and over 800,000 oral fluid tests on the workforce along with over 2.5 million urine tests related to federal safety standards.

However, a false positive on a drug test might lead to problems for workers' compensation or even death benefits. Furthermore, hair follicle tests might detect drug use that occurred weeks or months earlier. The authors of the study wrote that hair follicle testers need to be aware of the potential for false positives.

Another consequence of a false positive could be job loss. An individual may face a termination if negative drug tests are a requirement of the job. If this occurs as a result of a false positive, the employee may wish to consult an attorney about filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against the employer. A person might be wrongfully terminated for other reasons as well. For example, employees might feel that they are being retaliated against due to reporting harassment or whistleblowing or that they are being discriminated against. In any of these instances, it may be a good idea to document the situation. Writing down names, dates and incidents as they occur might help build a case to demonstrate the wrongful termination. Employees may also want to document any positive feedback they receive in case the employer later makes a claim about poor work performance.

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