Posted by: nedpelger | March 18, 2009

The Horror of a Drug Test Gone Bad

Drug tests are a part of the construction business these days, but did you ever think what you’d do if you wrongly tested positive? Jim Parker, a Construction Supervisor in Idaho, has been going through that experience, as reported in the Idaho Mountain Express. A mistaken reading on a pre-employment drug screening test cost him his job, reputation, $6,000 of debt and almost put his family onto the street.

Parker took a new job as a superintendent for an insulation firm, then the drug test came back positive for morphine or heroin. Not being a drug user, Parker proclaimed his innocence and requested the second sample be tested. The drug lab reported that their original results had been correct. Parker lost the job, lost the ability to file for unemployment and couldn’t find another job. “It’s really hard to get a job when your last job lasted only two days and you failed a drug test,” Parker said.

Eventually, Parker found that his second sample had never been retested, the drug lab simply sent out the results from the first test again. He got another lab to test him and they reported opiate levels consistent with eating poppy seeds on a bagel, which he had done. The first lab finally tested the second sample from the original urine and found the same acceptable level of opiates. That lab, though, still denies any wrong-doing, probably anticipating a law suit headed in their direction.

Parker eventually convinced another firm to hire him. Gary Storey, of Storey Construction, listened to his explanation, believed him and decided to give him a chance. Parker says, “I’m on the way to fixing my life, but I have this big situation and I’m not going to let it go until I make it right. We almost got kicked out of our home, we had to sell most of our furniture, my kids didn’t even have Christmas. When the fight’s the right fight, I’ll fight it to the death.”

What are the lessons learned from Parker’s experiences? Don’t assume that the system will work justly, or even correctly. If you see yourself getting caught in a squeeze, understand that it’s totally up to you to manage your way out of it. Act swifty.

In the specifics of Parker’s case, I would have recommended:

  1. Besides demanding a re-test of the sample, offer to give another sample to another lab immediately, at your cost.
  2. Take hair samples immediately, in the presence of the new boss, and store for future definitive samples.
  3. Don’t let a single day go by without pushing forward on every front, make yourself a pain in their neck.
  4. Realize the stakes are high and be your own advocate, get expert advice (early and often) from as many other sources as you can

We will all have some unfair things happen in our lives, hopefully not to the level described above, but it happens. Be prepared to respond well in those tough times.

If you’ve had some interesting or funny drug test stories, post them below or on the Forum. Other people really do enjoy reading them.

If you want a laugh, check out this previous post about a drug testing story involving my nephew called “What’s Mine is Urine”.

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