State Laws and Employee Drug Testing: The Olson v. Push Case

State Laws and Employee Drug Testing: The Olson v. Push Case
Marketing Director

One of the issues employers and human resources professionals come across frequently is determining which state law(s) to apply when a criminal record is found in one state for a job in another state. States have varying reporting requirements, so it may prove challenging for employers and hiring managers to make this decision. A recent case from the United States District Court of Minnesota, however, provides some guidance in the context of drug testing. Even if you are not in Minnesota and the regulations involved in the case do not apply to your organization, there’s still a takeaway you can apply from this case.

Background of the Shawn Olson v. Push, Inc. Case

Shawn Olson received an employment offer in West Virginia from Push, a Wisconsin-based company. Olson, however, is a resident of Minnesota, which is where the state’s regulations come into play. As many employers, Push asked the applicant to submit to a drug test at a clinic in Wisconsin. In order to accommodate Olson’s current state of residency, however, Push agreed to allow him to take the drug test in Minnesota. After taking the drug test in Minnesota, Olson began working for the employer in West Virginia on February 27, 2014. Olson’s drug test sample was described as “too diluted” by Push, which is considered as equivalent to a positive test result by the employer, and terminated Olson’s employment.

The Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA)

Under Minnesota’s DATWA, an employer may not terminate or refuse to hire an employee based on an initial screening result unless the employer verifies the result through a confirmatory test. Minn. Stat. §181.953, subd. 10. In the aforementioned cased, since Push did not submit Olson to another drug test to confirm the results, it would appear the employer violated this regulation. Olson was offered employment in West Virginia, so what does this mean concerning legislation from another state?

The Court Did Not Enforce Extra-Territorial Application of State Law

In Olson’s case, Push argued that Minnesota’s legislation did not apply for out-of-state employers hiring for out-of-state employment. The court rejected Olson’s broad interpretation of DATWA because it would risk being unconstitutional, as it would violate the employer’s due process rights. The court did not reach the issue of due process in this case because it found that DATWA did not apply to Olson’s employment in West Virginia. U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery dismissed the case on August 19, 2014.

Determining which state laws apply when conducting background checks, or drug testing in this case, for out of state hires can often be tricky for employers. Employers will be happy to know that the court ruled in favor of the employer in the recent case of Olson v. Push. This coincides with the industry best practice of focusing on the state background checking laws in which the employment will take place. Nevertheless, there can always be exceptions to the rule with background checks being subject to increased scrutiny and litigation. As an employer, it’s always highly recommended that you work with a screening firm that understands these complexities.

Contact us today to learn how PreCheck can help you implement your employee drug testing program as your third-party administrator.

PreCheck Drug Testing Resources Kit