my job offer was pulled after I failed a drug test — that they’d earlier said I passed

by Alison Green on May 16, 2013

A reader writes:

I recently took a drug screen for an internship I had applied for. The results were somewhat delayed in getting back, so I emailed the HR rep and asked her if she had any information. The next morning, she emailed me saying my screens (hair and urine) had come back negative, and that I would be starting the following Monday. This is my first major employment, and first in my field (Engineering) that I could use for experience, so I was delighted, and spent the entire day telling friends, family, even sending emails to old teachers/professors thanking them for their help.

However, this evening I got a call from the clinic where the test was done, telling me I had failed the hair test. (I had been a fairly frequent marijuana smoker until midway through my past semester, when I decided to quit for good because it was affecting my schoolwork. I assumed I would be able to pass any sort of test, though I did not realize hair tests could be so precise.) The next day the HR rep informed me that due to the failed test, they were removing the offer.

I realize the company has a right not to hire me if they feel drug use might affect my work, but what I am upset about is the way they carelessly and incompetently handled the situation. I cannot even tell you how furious I was, not only because I was now jobless, but for the enormous humiliation I would have to face when explaining to all those people why I am still without a job. I understand they cannot hire me if I failed the screen, but I want to know if I am entitled to any damages or compensation due to the mistake on their end. I have saved all of the emails between us, including the one which VERY CLEARLY states that I passed the tests and had been accepted into the program. It is a large company so I doubt I can do much, but I am considering filing a complaint about the HR rep in an attempt to get her fired. That may be a tad vindictive on my part, but you must understand the way I now appear in the eyes of my family/friends/colleagues.

You’re not going to get her fired, and you’re not going to get any damages or compensation; all you can do is move on.

Sometimes people make mistakes. And sometimes job offers are rescinded. It’s crappy when it happens — really crappy. But you don’t really have legal recourse, especially since you actually did fail the test — which in the eyes of most people is going to severely compromise the high ground you would have otherwise had.

Now, if you’d turned down another position or quit your job in order to accept this one — in other words, if you’d suffered material loss due to their mistake — you might have some fodder for pushing back on them … if this were a simple rescinded offer. But because it’s linked to a failed drug test (and the failure was an accurate one, it sounds like), you don’t have much room to really do anything here. (And I say that as someone who opposes drug testing for all but an extremely limited number of jobs, and who is opposed to drug prohibition in general. In other words, I’m a fairly sympathetic audience, but even I don’t see that you have any room to push back here.)

But if what you’re most upset about is that you had told people you had the job and now you have to explain that you don’t, that doesn’t have to be a big deal. It certainly doesn’t need to qualify as “enormous humiliation.” You can simply tell people the offer ended up falling through; you don’t need to go into details. Offers do fall through; people aren’t likely to think less of you because of it.

Overall, though, I think the message to take away from this is that you shouldn’t start your career expecting fairness and thinking that you can get damages if something unfair happens. While there’s plenty about work that is fair, there’s also plenty that won’t be, and the times when the unfairness is likely to result in you being paid damages are pretty rare. So are the times when it makes sense to act out of vindication and try to get someone fired — not only do those attempts generally fail, but they can hurt your own reputation. Your best course of action here is to simply move on.

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{ 382 comments… read them below or add one }

Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

You’re going to sue them for humiliation and try to get the HR rep fired? Are you high now?

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AmyNYC May 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

That’s uncalled for

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Mimi May 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

…..but still funny. ;-)

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Tiff May 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Agreed. I’ve got my stern face on, but man I want to chuckle.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

Agreed, it was uncalled for. Can we lay off the pot jokes? It’s not the point of what the OP was asking about and is kind of rude to people who function perfectly well while occasionally using marijuana in their private lives…

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 11:58 am

And before anyone says that someone smoking marijuana and performing perfectly well is an impossibility, remember that it’s easy to have a confirmation bias on this subject. A lot of people to only notice those who DON’T perform well because they smoke pot, whereas those who do and it isn’t an issue for them generally go undetected.

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Alexi May 16, 2013 at 9:51 pm

The OP herself admitted she didn’t perform well while under the influence of pot, so it’s not like it has no effect on people. My father was a functioning alcoholic in a high level job, but when he smelled of alcohol and then failed his d&a test, he was still forced to go to rehab or be fired. Would it be rude to criticize him for being drunk at work even though he clearly performed well enough to move up in the organization? Not everyone shares the same stance that recreational pot use is just fine. Frankly I have no problem with drug screens. While a lot of jobs may be safe to do while high or drunk, it doesn’t mean others are safe around you when you are.

More to the point, the OP seems really ridiculous and immature and she should be mad at herself, not at a person who probably made a simple mistake (yep, even HR people aren’t perfect). And I certainly don’t think trying to take legal action against them would help you find employment in the future. People have connections at other companies, especially if you’re looking within the same industry, and word could get around you being a trouble maker that’s not worth the risk.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm

No here has said marijuana has no effect on people. They’re saying that occasional use in the privacy of your own home in your non-work hours doesn’t mean that you can’t be a high-functioning, high-performing person at work or in the rest of your life. Just like having some beers or wine on the weekend doesn’t mean that it’ll affect the rest of your life either.

The problem with drug screens is exactly that: they’re not testing for intoxication. They’re testing for past use, which covers weekends, evenings, and other off hours. It’s really none of your business if someone chooses to do that with their off hours. None whatsoever.

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Alexi May 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Fair enough. But while I’m perhaps unfairly operating under the assumption that people will show up to work high, you’re assuming that people won’t when I’m sure there are plenty of people at both ends of that.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I’m sure there are some. They’re not the majority of marijuana users, however, any more than the majority of drinkers show up drunk.

KellyK May 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

I don’t think anyone who’s anti-drug-testing assumes that no drug users will show up at work high. It’s just that it makes more sense to prohibit and punish that actual behavior. If there were a test to determine whether you’d consumed alcohol in the past year, it would be inappropriate to use it on all prospective employees, assuming that they’d show up drunk to work.

Emily K May 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Thank you so much for this! Perfectly said!

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Construction HR May 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

Muhahahaha

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The Editor May 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

Just an honest question, but how does getting the HR rep help you feel better?

Move on. The mistake certainly sucks, but revenge isn’t the answer.

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OolonColuphid May 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

I’m not sure I’d want to work for that company anyway. Hair and urine tests? Ridiculous!

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Jane Doe May 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

I’ve seen postings for government jobs that required hair tests, but not even all govt jobs require drug tests at all. Some are very stringent (like the intelligence services, but they are going to have very stringent requirements in general), and others don’t care.

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Meg May 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

As a federal contractor, I wasn’t drug tested at all.

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Lisa May 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Funny you mention this – I wasn’t tested for my federal contractor position, but I WAS tested for my retail job.

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Xay May 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I’m a federal contractor too and I wasn’t tested, but most of the contractors I know who work for other companies are. It just depends on your contractor and probably the type of position/security clearance that is required.

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Kelly O May 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I work for a retailer who does hair tests. Seriously. Random hair tests at a retail clothing establishment.

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OneoftheMichelles May 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm

well clothes Are pretty dangerous….

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Even when sober, I can commit considerable mayhem with a zipper.

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AMG May 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Snickering quietly at my desk. That’s funny.

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Alexi May 16, 2013 at 9:56 pm

No clue as I’ve never been in retail, but maybe they think if you have a drug problem, you have more motive to steal merchandise or money for your habit?

I’m surprised about the govt stuff though. I’ve worked at an agency that hired contractors for oil & gas requiring DOT testing and that was always required before work started. Then again, we found out another agency the client used had been lying about doing testing and getting clear results (the contractors didn’t know). Needless to say, that agency lost a lot of business.

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Natalie May 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

Use =/= drug addict that steals. This is along the lines of assuming anyone who drinks is an alcoholic or plays the lottery is an addict that will steal from the store.

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TychaBrahe May 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

Do you want to fly in a plane designed by someone who spent the previous night high as a kite? I sure as hell don’t.

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Ask a Manager May 17, 2013 at 9:10 am

And who’s advocating that? There are performance tests that will catch it if a pilot is intoxicated, tired, impacted by legal prescription medicine, or compromised in any other way, and that’s what it makes sense to use.

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Amanda J May 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Oh, I dunno, it might be a pretty awesome plane ride with some cool design elements. And if I’m flying in the plane today, chances are the plane wasn’t designed and built just last night.

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Emily K May 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I don’t know, many drugs are associated with increased alpha wave activity in the brain which is associated with divergent thinking–the kind of thinking that powers creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. Some people can get some pretty good ideas when they’re high that they never would have come up with sober. And they can easily re-evaluate the work again when they’re sober, using their convergent thinking, to look for any errors they missed when they’re high.

In fact, two of the most important scientific discoveries of our time happened while the scientists were on LSD. Frank Crick figured out the double-helix structure while experimenting with LSD and won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for it. And Dr Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry in 1993, invented the Polymerase Chain Reaction, a method for detecting even the smallest amount of DNA in ancient material while experimenting with LSD. He is quoted as saying, “Would I have invented PCR if I hadn’t taken LSD? I seriously doubt it. I could sit on a DNA molecule and watch the polymers go by. I learnt that partly on psychedelic drugs.”

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Ask a Manager May 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

LSD has a long and fascinating history with things like this.

(And I don’t say that to mean that therefore it’s okay for people to come to work under the influence of it or other drugs … but I do think that for people who don’t understand much about drugs or how some people choose to use them, it’s important to learn there’s another side of things than the one rapidly anti-drug folks teach. There’s a long history of psychedelics and other drugs being used by writers, inventors, scientists, therapists, and others.)

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Cimorene May 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Actually, Crick figured out the double-helix structure of DNA after Rosalind Franklin explained it to him and after someone, without her permission or knowledge, showed him pictures (or “pictures”) of DNA that she had taken. Just saying. Watson and Crick get all the love and Nobel Prizes, but Rosalind Franklin did all the awesome thinking.

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Late to the Party May 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I just wanted to thank you for mentioning Rosalind Franklin’s contribution.

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SomeCascadian January 2, 2014 at 11:46 am

I hate to break this to you, but as a Washingtonian who has known many, many boeing factory employees, you have most likely never flown in a plane that was not constructed by actively high stoners.

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SomeGuy August 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Its not a big deal if you don’t do drugs… most companys require a drug test just to cover their asses if an employee show up to work drugged up.

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Legal Eagle May 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

People need to get it out of their heads that you can sue over anything that you don’t like. People make mistakes. Even careful people in careful organizations will still make mistakes. You need to learn not to get “furious” about it.

You should definitely not try to get the HR rep fired. Right now you’re the candidate that failed a drug test. You would become the candidate that failed a drug test and then tried to get someone fired over it. If I were in charge of hiring at that company, I would consider you for another job in the future if you failed a drug test for marijuana. I would not reconsider you if you tried to get an employee fired when you didn’t get the job that you wanted.

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Mimi May 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

Exactly.

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm

To be fair, you *can* sue over anything at all. But the vast, VAST majority of those suits will be unsuccessful and a waste of your time and money.

But yeah, beyond my nitpickiness, your greater point is dead on–just because things didn’t fall your way doesn’t mean you should jump straight to litigation to resolve things. That’s a lousy way to go through life, and it makes the world pretty miserable for the rest of the people who make mistakes that are, at worst, worthy of a verbal scolding or, at best, a shrug of the shoulders and a determination to move on in life.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm

To nitpick more, you can *file* suit, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll actually get to sue–not all suits filed are heard.

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Legal Eagle May 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

All of this nitpickiness is perfectly fine with me!

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Just a Reader May 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

How vindictive…you’re not entitled to a job for which you failed to meet the hiring requirements. And the HR rep is just doing her job.

Nobody working on entering the job market should be doing drugs for this reason. Fair or not, this is how it is.

I would simmer down, move on and quit trying to punish people for a choice you made.

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EngineerGirl May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Thank you for saying this. The requirement was that you weren’t doing illegal drugs. “Must pass drug test” is usually how it is written in job applications.

But OP, by your own admission you didn’t meet the requirements. So why the anger when you eventually got caught? You did not qualify.

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EngineerGirl May 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm

And for the people talking about “fair”, is it fair to misrepresent yourself to a potential employer?

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The Snarky B May 17, 2013 at 9:44 am

No one here is misrepresenting themselves. The OP took the test honestly and willingly.

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Meganly May 17, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’m not seeing any misrepresentation. The OP doesn’t use marijuana anymore, and thus thought she would pass the drug test. Also, the OP didn’t mention that she is in a state where it is illegal, so you are making a bit of an assumption there.

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Rich May 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

Tough situation. Certainly embarassing. But the negative response and talk of getting someone fired is just bad karma and practice. You never know who from this company may move on to a new company. And if you apply there…well, good luck with that.

Stay positive. Stay clean. Move on.

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Tiff May 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I recognize that bald head….

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Jubilance May 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Yup…

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Tiff May 16, 2013 at 2:19 pm

You too, mama! From my sbm days.

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TheSnarkyB May 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

and hot face!

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Chriama May 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

I think the important take away from here is that you can’t expect life to be fair, because it isn’t. Lots of things get under your skin, but before you get all up in arms, ask yourself: “Is this the hill I want to die on?”

I’m also pretty concerned about your stated vindictiveness. Even if the HR rep deserved some sort of punishment for unnecessarily raising your hopes, does her livelihood really seem like an equal trade? The consequences of her action on your life are much less than the consequences you want her to face.
I bring this up because not only is it vindictive, it’s short-sighted and self centered. Your embarrassment is worth her job? That type of attitude won’t help you “win friends and influence people”.

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Kerry May 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

ask yourself: “Is this the hill I want to die on?”

This is such a great question to ask yourself in so many situations.

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Coraline May 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm

But there does come a time when the answer is yes, this is the hill I want to die on, because the issue is that important to me. Been there, done that, better for it.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Exactly. Sometimes you have to go to the gym and punch a speed bag or something. Or throw something in your house (something energy depleting that doesn’t hurt someone is what I mean.) Sometimes you need to go somewhere in the woods and scream about it. Write a nasty letter then burn it.

But get the energy of the “OMG UNFAIR,” and “how dare they” out of your system because in the job world it’ll hurt you more than failing that test.

Then Google and understand the limits of the testing. And stop applying for jobs that require hair tests until you’re beyond that limit. Depending on the testing from what I read the LOWEST level is 90 days better testing I see can show up to a year. But since you’ve stopped smoking the best thing to do is go for jobs that don’t require hair tests until your hair actually matches your current condition.

It’s not so much the “hill you want to die on” as “Is this the hill I want to kill my future career on.” Because you’ll end up being that person who just cannot take responsibility for anything if it doesn’t go their way. It’s a BAD rep to have.

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Amy May 16, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Or shave your head/get a pixie cut, if you’re really desparate and dont mind the look of supershort hair!

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TheSnarkyB May 16, 2013 at 2:57 pm

OP isn’t necessarily female, so a short haircut might not be that scary – it sounds like they just didn’t do their research.

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Runon May 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm

While this is a good question to ask, and I think very much applies here, it isn’t always great. Because sometimes you end up bleeding to death from a million papercuts because each one wasn’t that big of a deal and each one isn’t the “hill you want to die on” but when you compile them you have an insurmountable mountain.

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Just Me May 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

I’m confused as to how this even happened. I deal with job candidates and drug screenings all the time, and I’ve never had one come back initially negative, then positive after the fact. If anything, that would be my question to all involved with this. Did the HR Rep speak to soon (i.e. did she have the urine test back, but not the hair, so assumed both were negative)? Or did the clinic misread the results? I’d really be curious to know what happened here.

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Laufey May 16, 2013 at 11:26 am

I wonder if maybe the results for the urine came back first, and would have been negative since the user stopped using. The hair test might have taken longer, and that’s what would have come negative. That’s the most logical thing I can think of.

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Laufey May 16, 2013 at 11:27 am

“since the OP stopped using.”

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Mimi May 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

Sometimes we’ll have results come back “pending review”, but I wouldn’t tell a candidate anything until I knew for sure it was positive or negative. Of course, we only do a urine drug screen, not hair, so who knows…

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Yeh, this is not good procedure on the part of the company EITHER. If you have two tests out you don’t report on the results of the LESS accurate test to the interviewee until the BETTER test comes in.

If they’d said you passed the hair and then the urine came back, I’d be shocked because hair is a more specific test. But honestly if you’re doing two tests you do not report results until you get them both.

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Brie B. December 12, 2013 at 3:25 am

Just to be a bit nitpicky, a urine test is not “less accurate” than a hair test; hair tests just cover a longer period of time (marijuana can show up in a urine test anywhere from a week to 30 days depending on how often and heavily the person smoked, whereas a hair test detects any drug use in the past 3 months or so).

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Christine May 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Thank you! While I do agree that the OP is overreacting (with all due respect to him/her), I’d be livid if I were told that all was good to go only to find out I didn’t pass after all. Did HR even acknowledge the mistake?

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AMG May 16, 2013 at 11:22 am

Good Lord, entitled much? I am sympathetic about smoking pot too, but do your research next time, get a haircut if you need to, and grow up.

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Oh. May 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

Wow. You openly state that you want to try and get this HR Rep fired because of a mistake that was made. A “tad” vindictive? Please. I’m 100% certain that company dodged a huge bullet by not hiring you. Not only do you fail drug tests, but you also seem to have a huge sense of entitlement and a clear lack of understanding to how the working world works. Someone made an error and your first instinct is to sue and try and have people fired? Sober up and grow up.

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Jane Doe May 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

Just tell people the offer fell through. It happens, and really you can tell people anything you want. Job offers get rescinded because of budget reasons, or because someone else quit and needs to be replaced first, etc. (I’d not give too much detail though, as it will sound weird).

I suspect the letter writer hit “send” to AAM and didn’t give him/herself time to cool off…so take that as a lesson too and don’t send email when you’re feeling vindictive.

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Ellie H. May 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

Yes. I agree that it sucks, but there is no need to go into the details of why it fell through – with anyone (including your friends). If someone asks about why, you can tell them that it was an HR error on the company’s part that you were made the offer in the first place (which is the god-given truth in this matter); you can even come off like the bigger person by saying that while it’s disappointing to you, you understand that mistakes can happen. That’s an accurate and much more positive way of looking at it than carrying around vindictiveness would be. Framing things is a huge part of changing how we feel about them, so I would predict that if you start saying this to people, you will eventually feel better about it yourself.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

Framing things is a huge part of changing how we feel about them, so I would predict that if you start saying this to people, you will eventually feel better about it yourself.

I love this — it’s so true.

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Alicia May 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I love this too.

I was in the “dire straights” club out of university and had two hopeful job opportunities, one I REALLY wanted, and one I thought was an okay fall-back, but definitely not my first choice. In the end, I only got an offer for my fall-back job and because of finances, I took it. After I stopped thinking of it as my “fall-back” job, I realized it’s actually a pretty amazing opportunity, will be a great experience learning lots of new lab instrumentation, it will be a great stepping stone for five years down the road or so, has room for growth, and I got to stay close to home. When I changed my view of it, I felt so much better about my needing to take the position, and didn’t feel so much like I was settling.

An added point, try (as much as possible) to not be a slave to your financial situation so that you don’t end up in the “have to jump at the first opportunity that I come across”, though in my case it did work out well. I’m working on my Emergency Fund (aka F U fund) to make sure I have more freedom in my choices in the future.

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T May 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

+1 for the F U Fund. Love it !!

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Heather May 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Love that I’m not the only one who calls it that!

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

An added point, try (as much as possible) to not be a slave to your financial situation so that you don’t end up in the “have to jump at the first opportunity that I come across”, though in my case it did work out well. I’m working on my Emergency Fund (aka F U fund) to make sure I have more freedom in my choices in the future.

I have tried to make this point many times, though not as eloquently.

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Yeah, I mean that’s so trivially easy to do, right? Especially when you don’t have a job in the first place! Why don’t more people do this?

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I think that’s unnecessarily dismissive, and it’s reading stuff into Alicia’s comment that wasn’t there. This is a lifelong-relevant point that many people don’t absorb–that prioritizing an emergency fund over Starbucks and bar tabs means you’ll have more options when you really need them. This relates to the conversation about college and student loans, in fact–having less pressure to pay stuff off allows you to be more particular. Nobody said that everybody can do it, but a lot more people could than do.

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm

It’s not dismissive if you look at the actual demographics. Additionally, consumer debt has gone *way down* in the past few years, so the issue isn’t “people not saving enough”.

Jamie May 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Nobody said that everybody can do it, but a lot more people could than do.

Exactly. There are some people who truly do live check to check and are just covering their bills who have already pared down extraneous spending.

But I would bet there are far more who think they live check to check and don’t think they have any money to put away but they have Starbucks habits, and go out frequently, and have $100+ a month cell phone plans – or whatever.

People can do what they like with their money, but it’s a fair point that the vast majority of people can put something away each month if they cut down in one area or another.

And I’m not judging people for their indulgences, many of us rationalize a want into the need column from time to time – but if I were to run out of money at the end of the month I certainly should think about my cable bill, and the Friday night take out, and the Netflix account before I put myself into the same category of someone who really doesn’t have even a couple of dollars to save.

Cassie May 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm

“Nobody said that everybody can do it, but a lot more people could than do.”

This^^. My mom is pretty thrifty (a result of her upbringing – both culturally and at home), and although I understand the value of a dollar, there are times where I wish she weren’t quite as thrifty and would treat herself once in a while.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who is always running out of money before payday, who is several thousand dollars in debt, but then wastes her money on eating out almost every day. And because she’s a picky eater, she’ll take one bite and then throw out the rest. I worry for her sometimes – she gets restless and wants to quit her job (not a good fit for her) and move to another country. Even though it is notoriously difficult to get a work visa in that country and her skills are pretty routine office/clerical skills.

She knows she should try to save some money (she talks about it all the time) but when it comes to actually doing it? Fails every time.

Paycheck to Paycheck May 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I know, right? I’ve got about $17 left from each paycheck after I pay my bills. At this rate I’ll have my magical four-figure savings fund saved up in about a decade… assuming no expensive emergencies come up between now and then! Easy-peasy!

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm

So tell me about your $200 iPhone and your $99/month cell phone plan.

Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Even if you’ve trimmed everywhere you can trim and still can’t save, that’s no reason not to put the advice out there for the people who CAN benefit from it, which is many.

Heather May 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

@ Wilton:
That was overly harsh, I think. Not everyone, or probably even the majority, of people who struggle with money are just blowing their cash on stuff they don’t need. Sure, some are, but you don’t know what Paycheck to Paycheck’s situation is and it’s not cool to assume he or she is just irresponsible.

John Scalzi said it much better than I can (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/): “The problem is people who aren’t poor or who have never been poor often don’t grasp why it’s difficult to escape poverty — you can do everything right in terms of trying to improve your life situation (and there are many people who are poor do), and yet just one thing going wrong can mess the whole thing up…When you’re middle-class or well-off, you can absorb a certain amount of the crap life throws at you. When you’re poor, you really can’t.”

OneoftheMichelles May 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Trying to talk to “Wilton Businessman” but my screen offers no “Reply” under his…

First, I love your Gravatar.

Second, I’ve always been a ferreter/saver of emergency funds. I’ve managed to hang on to a part-time job for 7+ years. However, my entire life and career have been derailed for 14 years due to illness/family situations and I have seen enough of the US’s “social safety net” to also feel ignored and frustrated when I hear good financial advice that I have not been able to act on for a long, long time.

I’m lucky to have a friend who owns his own business add a $13 phone to his plan for me. Otherwise I would have NO phone. And I’m typing to you from another friend’s computer.

Yes, Mike C. was harsh, but his sentiment may be based on valid problems.

TheSnarkyB May 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Wilton – rude.
I’ve found a lot of people on this site being super dubious about those who say they can’t save any more than they already do. Same thing for the interns/new hires who came from families where no one had ever had a job before, etc. The reason class is such a hush-hush problem in the US is that the class structure allows you to not even see the people “below” you. I agree with AAM that it’s good advice for those who can take it, and those who can’t, won’t. But there’s no need to respond snarkily when you don’t know someone’s financial reality.
(And if you were just joking, then hopefully someone who wasn’t will see this and take it to heart b/c you’re not the only one).

Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I never said I had any problems, I’m simply pointing out that “saving money” is an incredibly obvious thing to say to anyone, and that for most people you can’t save enough to pay for something like cancer or other emergencies. Most people live paycheck to paycheck not because of poor decisions but because wages have stagnated versus productivity.

If you don’t believe me, look at the leading cause of bankruptcy – it’s not “iPhones”, it’s medical bills.

fposte May 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Mike, it’s still dismissive if you look at the demographics, because it doesn’t change your tone, your misreading, and the fact that it does apply to plenty of people.

We’re not talking about bankruptcy-proofing people in the event of a car wreck; we’re talking about the difference between being able to wait a couple of months for a better job and having to take the obvious crapfest before you. That’s something that a lot of people haven’t thought about, and I think it’s good to inform them even if the information isn’t relevant to everybody.

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Steve May 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm

We’ve all heard the statistic that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, but I’m unconvinced. Its a chicken or egg issue in my mind. What causes people to have high medical bills? Having bad or no health insurance–in other words poor people.

fposte May 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

The bankruptcy problem isn’t limited to those with bad or no health insurance–even so-called “good” health insurance can leave you with incredible bills that few people could simply cover. Out of pocket limits are often applied only to in-network costs (if you have surgery, note that that can mean every member of the team–physician assistants, anesthesiologists–has to be in-network, and you have no control over that) and to charges the company deems “usual and customary.” I don’t know if the Affordable Health Care Act has changed any of this, but I had what’s supposed to be good insurance and fought until I won over a $10k charge for a physician assistant at a covered, preplanned, cleared surgery. If it had been an anesthesiologist (notorious for not signing up for networks), it could have been quadruple that. Illinois has since passed a law forbidding this, but it’s still an issue–Google discussions of “balance billing.”

Mike C. May 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

You still need to show that “the advice applies to plenty of people”. The evidence says that the greater cause of lack of savings are emergencies and median wages no longer keeping pace with productivity, and it hasn’t for decades.

Nathalie May 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

If re-framing works for you, that’s great, but too often it’s used to mask the problem, rather than solve the problem. The problem is still there – you might feel better about it, but how much better would you feel if the problem was resolved and went away?

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Ellie H. May 17, 2013 at 10:49 am

I really don’t think that re-framing is used to mask rather than to solve a problem; that’s not what I meant at all. I’m not referring to lying about something or pretending a problem it doesn’t exist, but rather trying to put it into a positive context.
In fact, just today Gretchen Rubin wrote about this on my other favorite blog, The Happiness Project: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2013/05/the-happiness-lesson-from-the-finale-of-the-tv-show-the-office/

And here’s a post that expresses the concept a little more directly: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2006/05/pollyannaish_ad/

I’m not saying that the LW should convince himself that he likes the fact that it happens, just that it was a mistake that while disappointing, doesn’t have to ruin his life and can be moved on from.

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Denise May 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm

While I do agree with you about framing in general, I think that the OP probably needs to do less shifting of focus and more looking head on at his/her own choices. Regardless of how people feel about marijuana, many people (for valid reasons) see it as a bad habit, and the reason the OP is so upset is that OP does not want to fess up to having been denied a job because of smoking marijuana. But that’s just the reality of the situation, and the OP would probably do him/herself a bigger favor by deciding what habits are conducive to his/her life goals and overall reputation and acting accordingly.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Actually, I’m not sure that’s why the OP didn’t want to tell people — I read it as he was embarrassed to have announced a new job and to have to go back and say “never mind,” regardless of the reason.

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Denise May 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

While having to go back and say nevermimd would be embarassing, people will inevitably ask what happened, at which point the op will have to decide what to tell them. The degree of emotional harm the op seems to believes he (or she) has suffered seems to go way beyond the disappointment and inconvenience of having a job offer rescinded for, say, an administrative error. (extending the offer at all was the admin error, rescinding it was because of failing the test.)

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

He can simply explain that it was an HR error that the offer was made in the first place (which is true).

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

He can. But there’s also no guarantee that friends and family–particularly parents–will not press for more detail, especially if he has been talking up the opportunity a lot. And not everyone can be vague with family. So there might not be an easy out, which seems to be the point of agitation in the op’s focus on what his family and friends will think (and perhaps he’s already told them).

My point is that while he’s figuring out how to dance around the questions he will face this time, he might think about whether this is a dance he wants to have to do in the future; because “I didn’t know hair tests went that far back” could become “I didn’t realize they were going to change the policy and test us randomly,” or “I didn’t know I’d be on the job market again and have to pass a drug test for a new employer.”

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Or he could set boundaries and only share what information he’s comfortable sharing; adults aren’t obligated to make their professional lives and choices an open book to anyone who asks.

The Snarky B May 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Jane Doe, exactly! It always baffles me how some people are so reluctant to lie about things or tell half-truths. Please- nobody needs to know the details here, really.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm

This. Also if you lie you have to remember what story you told which person and isn’t that just mentally exhausting.

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TheSnarkyB May 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Exactly! just don’t tell anyone the truth and you’ll be golden :)

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MrsKDD May 16, 2013 at 11:32 am

Argh thank you very much for contributing to the “entitled” stereotype us Millenials face. Oh yes, you can be upset that you were dealt a crappy hand, but to want to get someone fired over this? My head hurts…

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Just a Reader May 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

It’s not even being dealt a crappy hand though–this is a self-made problem.

I’m not anti pot, but I am pro being smart about it.

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MrsKDD May 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

Oh I agree it’s a self-made problem; I meant the change in the test results. That’s unfortunate it happened, but again, to want to get someone fired…I can’t believe this is the attitude someone new to workforce (or anyone at any stage of their career) has toward the hiring process. OP needs a reality check. And some Cheetos.

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some1 May 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

“I’m not anti pot, but I am pro being smart about it.”

We can go on & on & on about unfair drug tests are (and I would agree for the most part), but I find it hard to believe no one ever told you some companies do drug tests as a condition of hire. The onus was on you to research what kind of tests are out there and how far back smoking will result in a positive test. (Though, I have never heard of an employer doing the hair test). Had you properly researched hair tests, you could have withdrew yourself as a candidate at that point without an explanation. Yeah, the hiring folks would probably assume why, but it still looks better than failing the test.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hair tests are fairly uncommon and it’s possible the OP didn’t realize it wouldn’t just be urine until already at the lab.

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Just a Reader May 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

That makes sense. I was drug tested for my job and it was urine only.

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some1 May 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

That’s possible. I think a good HR person should inform the candidate of the test type & for what all at the time they give them the clinic info, though.

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Liz in a Library May 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Yep…both jobs I’ve had that required drug testing were urine tests. For unrelated health reasons, I had to request a hair test, and the employer saw it as highly unusual. My understanding is that the hair test was more expensive for the company as well?

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TL May 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Yes.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 11:58 am

I don’t think this testing is unfair in the OP’s industry, considering the job title was “Engineer.” The OP didn’t say what area of engineering, but if it is a job that involves field work (or could involve it in the future), even a recent history as a user would be bad. Companies that design and build stuff that can kill people if it fails cannot risk having people with less than clear judgement doing that work. Of course it’s unlikely, but imagine if 5 years down the road, a project the OP was involved in failed resulting in a fatality, and it was uncovered in a lawsuit that he/she had this history.

Working in admin in the home office? I could argue the testing is unneccessary. Working as an engineer? Test.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

So are they also going to test for recent alcohol use, fatigue, and other things that can also affect performance? Or just whether someone smoked a joint a month ago, which says nothing about what their performance will be today?

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EngineerGirl May 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

A good point. Our company actually has huddles where we check for such things prior to starting an operation. Smashing a 2 billion dollar device? Bad. Killing someone? Far far worse.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

For any of these things, it’s about the policies and procedures in place. Companies like mine will be smeared all over the news if an accident happens and it turned out there was some sort of oversight in safety (including fatigue, substance use). Think of the BP oil spill, and consider the headline if reporters uncovered that key personnel were known substance abusers. (In the media reports, it doesn’t really matter if you had a possession charge when you were 18 or it’s your current daily practice.)

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

(In the media reports, it doesn’t really matter if you had a possession charge when you were 18 or it’s your current daily practice.)

I’d say that type of thing matters quite a bit in how events are covered.

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Denise May 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I agree with this. From the legal standpoint, if there was some type of product defect and the company knew someone working on it had any habit that could have affected performance, it would be very damaging to any tort defense.

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Coelura May 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

A-B (beer) did a hair & urine test on me for a contractor position. Its not all that uncommon with large companies.

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Just a Reader May 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I have a relative there–they do random drug screenings all the time. My relative was once tested 4 times in 6 weeks just because his name randomly popped up in the system.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm

A random system should still have a human input that says unless there is an accident/error issue a person can only be tested x times in x amount of time.

That’s just stupid. Companies can and do (even if they don’t test pre employment) have policies that anyone in an onsite accident or who makes a machine breaking error gets tested.

But beyond that, there should be a list of people who have been tested and if the random number generator spits them out again a new person should be drawn. Depending on the industry once per 4 or 6 months should be reasonable.

It’s expensive for the company and doesn’t really provide the full information. The idea is to keep people from doing drugs, but if your system is always grabbing the same person other people are going to get cocky and stupid.

When I managed something like that it was 6 months, if someone’s name came up again within 6 months of their last test, we drew again for another person. And made a record that x person was picked but had been tested 3 weeks ago so it’s now person Y.

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm

But how is that random? You get tested and you know you’re in the clear for six months. The idea behind random drug testing is that you are staying clean because the possibility exists that you will be tested at any time. Why go to the time and expense of drug testing if it’s not random?

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

There has to be a point where true randomness vs company cost has to come into play. Unless Anon is right and they’re targeting this person, the average normal person who is passing the tests will continue to do so. Is it possible for someone to game that? Yes. Is it likely? Depends on the people and the industry.

Truthfully I’m more for if you’re going to test, test prior to employment and then either re-test on a schedule for EVERYONE, or leave it to “test upon accident or costly error.”

But you have to balance testing one person vs testing someone else vs the cost to the company to do the testing. Now if the random tests were 5 or 6 people that’d be different. But the idea even though you’re playing to random is to get most people tested occasionally. To get an actual sample of the employees.

Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

The cost is not relevant. You’re going to test X number of people per month, why would it matter if Joe is tested three months in a row?

Putting on my mathematician hat, if you are going to test on a schedule, you might as well not test.

Jessa May 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Answering myself again, is the employees have no idea what the testing randomness or criteria are unless it’s the accident/error test. The person responsible for doing the name picking just doesn’t SAY that hey Frank got picked last week. They just exclude him that time.

OneoftheMichelles May 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

What if someone just happens to be on a prescription amphetamin type medicine for ADHD and they’re involved in a workplace accident? How is this approached?

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

You have a prescription. If you are operating heavy machinery then your workplace has probably rules on taking medication and which is appropriate and which is not.

CO native July 31, 2013 at 2:31 am

I must jump in here as a worker in CO where Medical Marijuana is legal and there is a great debate over being tested. If I’m taking oxycontin for pain with a medical Rx (which I have in the past), how is that any different from using MJM (I have a government issued, doctor supported “red card”, which works like a precription) for ongoing pain?
I have to strongly disagree that using heavy machinery is dangerous to use if I’m not “using” while I’m at work, but nightly to help me sleep through my pain. The effects wear off with MJM just as they do with narcotics. I agree that if you are using any of the above AT work, dangerous machinery etc. should and needs to be avoided.
Just needing to put in my two cents here.

Anon May 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I’ve worked at several companies where “random” drug testing wasn’t actually random, it was just the way they reserved the right to act when they suspected someone may be using and wanted to run a test without making a direct accusation. Not saying anyone suspects your relative (s/he would have a better idea of whether other people are getting tested as well there), but I’ve seen it a lot.

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Ellie H. May 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I disagree. This isn’t a self-made problem. If the letter writer were bitching about not being able to get a job that requires drug testing due to being a current pot user, that would be a self-made problem. The problem is specifically that he was told he had passed a drug test, made an offer, and only after that it was discovered that the pass was an error and the offer had to be rescinded. It may not be the most unfair thing that has ever happened to a person, but I wouldn’t describe that discrete occurrence as a “self-made problem”; it’s a problem (disappointment, frustration) caused by the error that was made in telling the LW he had passed the test and making a job offer which then had to be rescinded. I would also be unimpressed if the OP were upset about failing a drug test despite having a quit a while ago (I’ve read that hair tests can turn up positive even for very long after ceasing smoking, and so I would expect a reasonable person to be aware of this). But it strikes me that the origin of the error is not with the OP. I’m not saying it’s right to be vindictive and certainly not to try to get the HR person fired; that is really unreasonable and over the top, but that there is perfect justification for being upset and frustrated by the mistake.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I understand being upset and frustrated, but I’m not convinced that the OP would have accepted a rejection based on the drug test with just a philosophical shrug, though. I think some of this is just frustration at rejection.

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the gold digger May 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm

OP would have accepted a rejection based on the drug test with just a philosophical shrug,

No, and he shouldn’t have! Because he did quit! He just didn’t quit early enough. This would be really frustrating.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Really? I think that comes under “it’s a fair cop,” and a philosophical shrug is absolutely what’s appropriate. It’s not a “did you quit?” test, it’s a “do you partake of drugs?” test. “Not for a few months” isn’t a “no” to that.

You want to tackle the larger issue of whether drug use at all is relevant, that’s a different matter, but the difference between doing drugs last weekend and doing drugs two months ago is to me splitting hairs, if you’ll pardon the pun.

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Ellie H. May 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Sure, maybe he or she wouldn’t have (I agree with you that there seems to be underlying frustration at rejection, and I’m not saying the vindictive attitude is appealing), but in the circumstances as they currently stand, it is really not a self-made problem, and he didn’t write to Alison that he was upset about being rejected for failing a drug test even though he quit some time ago. I don’t think it’s useful to speculate about hypothetical different ways this problem could have been different; the problem at hand is that the OP was mistakenly told he passed a drug test and made an offer, then the offer was rescinded when more accurate information came to light.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I agree it’s not completely self-made, but I would call it at least a self-contributing problem in a way that some offer recissions aren’t, and I think that plays an emotional role here too–I think that’s one of the reasons the OP was so unhappy about telling people what happened.

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Jubilance May 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm

This was my first thought – he sounds like a spoiled Millenial who gives the rest who don’t have this attitude a bad name.

Sorry, but this situation is really of the OP’s making. Now that he’s seen the ramifications of questionable life choices, hopefully he will choose more wisely in the future.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Wait. Questionable life choices? We’re going to shame this guy for doing something that millions of Americans do or have done without harm? Why, just because it’s illegal? Lots of things have wrongly been illegal in the past and no longer are, and people who recognized that those laws were BS at the time weren’t making “questionable life choices.”

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Susan May 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Yes, questionable. Questionable doesn’t have to mean immoral or shameful – let’s call a spade a spade. OP used an illegal substance and, as a result, lost out on a job opportunity. If I did something illegal and lost a job, I’d question my own behavior and make changes moving forward.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Not everyone feels that way. Plenty of us would be happy not to work somewhere that invades employees’ privacy in this way.

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Susan May 16, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I agree that having a cultural fit with a company is important. But in turn, that means that if I use drugs, I’m only going to apply to companies that don’t drug test or have a fairly liberal policy. Again, OP used an illegal substance and then applied at a company that doesn’t allow employees to use an illegal substance. If he wants to work for that comapny, he/she should question and perhaps change some behaviors. That’s all.

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Pseudonym May 16, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I had an inkling you would be against these practices as I looked you up on LinkedIn and saw your former position, but I just wanted to say how happy it makes me. I’m an entry-level candidate graduating in a week (with more than one job offer) and I smoke marijuana regularly. I also go (soon to be went) to school full-time, work a part-time job/internship, and write for a well respected music publication. I have a 3.7 GPA, a boss who loves me and the work I do, and have produced hundreds of pieces of content for the aforementioned publication. I don’t smoke before work or school. In fact, I don’t smoke until I’ve done EVERYTHING I need to do for the day because I know I’m not a functional smoker. That’s not to say I don’t know plenty of people who are, but I recognize that I personally am not.

I’ve been stressing about what to do should I be asked for a drug test and have decided just to be honest because I WILL fail. At this point I don’t have enough time to quit and at this point que sera sera.

I would like to echo your sentiment that smoking marijuana is not a “questionable life choice.” A questionable life choice would be putting a marijuana habit before your other responsibilities, which plenty of people do — but plenty of people also put less controversial things before their other responsibilities and to equal or greater detriment. At the very worst, I practice responsible irresponsibility (an oxymoron, I know). In reality, I smoke marijuana….so what?

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I have to agree with Susan. I think pot should be legalized, and wish I could buy some right now.

But I would only buy it if I could do it legally. It’s not legal for me to have it where I live, and I have to deal with that. If I buy it now, and I get busted in this state, then I gotta pay the consequences.

Should the company not test for pot? I could go there. But they can, and they do, and I have to deal with that.

They used to put cocaine in Coke, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to do it now.

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Anonymous May 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

Please don’t compare cocaine and marijuana. It’s a false equivalency.

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EM May 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I also have to point out that in WA and CO, recreational use of marijuana has recently been legalized (granted, it’s still against Federal law, but the Obama Administration has specifically put a very low priority on enforcing that law).

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Malissa May 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I know that most WA employers that care about this type of thing have marijuana use in their policies, similar to tobacco use and/or alcohol.
Some still don’t want you partaking anytime because of federal regulations or safety reasons.
Some have said as long as you don’t show up to work under the effects of marijuana, they don’t care what you do in your off time, much like alcohol consumption.

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Erika Kerekes May 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

I agree with AMG. First step before you interview for any more jobs: Get a very short haircut. If you stopped smoking weed six months ago, I assume the new hair would be clean.

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Construction HR May 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

You assume they only use the air on his head….

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AMG May 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Ok, then get rid of that, too.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm

They’ll find one somewhere. A full body submersion in Nair would be the only solution.

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PEBCAK May 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I worked for a company that did hair tests, and my understanding from some awkward conversations with coworkers is that, if there is nothing on your head, they go to armpits before they go to pubes.

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A Bug! May 16, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Yes, this is exactly right. I wish people would stop saying “get a haircut/shave your head” in response to drug testing. You’d have to go full Gattaca to avoid a hair test, and unless you have some very convincing reason for it, the company’s likely to treat it as a refusal, and will assume that you have something to hide. Unless they desperately want you as an employee and have no other options, it’s probably going to be enough to sink your candidacy, possibly more so than a historical positive for pot.

Neither do they need a long strand of head hair to get much info, by the way – they can go 90 days on an inch and a half. Non-head hair often goes back even further on a shorter strand.

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm

“I swim competitively as a hobby”

There’s your answer.

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A Bug! May 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

“A competitive swimmer? Awesome! I’m sure you understand that I’ll need some proof, though. It shouldn’t be too hard to point me at some recent event results.”

Natalie May 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Given how many women shave their armpits that seems like a less than helpful plan b. Then again, I suppose fewer women are willing to shave their head.

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OneoftheMichelles May 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Finally. The ultimate retort to brazilian waxing.

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nyxalinth May 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Even then, if someone went that far, I think it would raise red flags!

Like someone else said, I’m pro-marijuana use (I don’t use it myself) but also, pro being smart about it. If you aren’t smart about it, there could be consequences.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I’m unclear if “midway through my past semester” was October 2012 or March 2013.

If March, it’s hard to really be sympathetic to the OP. He’s barely established in his new lifestyle & it would be hard for me to trust him until he had proven himself for a few more months. (I’m saying that more as a mother or girlfriend than as an employer. Good for him. . .but I’ll hold my applause a little longer. And I realize it’s not necessarily a good/bad thing, but I’d say the same for someone who started exercising or whatever. New behaviors and lifestyle changes take time to take root.)

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Trust him to do … what exactly?

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businesslady May 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I think anon was referring to the OP’s decision to stop smoking pot–that it hasn’t been long enough to “stick.” but that’s not really relevant to the conversation at hand.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I think some people are making the assumption that people who use marijuana will come to work high. Unless one assumes all social drinkers will come into work drunk, it doesn’t really make sense.

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AmyNYC May 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

I think the OP is a little naïve, but all the negative comments aren’t helping. OP says this is his/her first post-grad job, and there’s a learning curve to being an adult. OP is upset and is asking a reputable source before acting… to me, that’s a first step.
Lesson learned: life’s not fair, and this isn’t going to work out the way you wanted, but I hope you feel better now that you’ve vented.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

I agree — we’ve seen plenty of naive new grads here before. It doesn’t call for beheading.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

No that’s really a silly way to pass a hair test. Really, honestly. That’s overkill.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Hah! It took me a minute, too!

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Heather May 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Well-played :)

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Malissa May 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm

You win! Best comment of the day!

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm

+1 for the subtle play.

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A Disillusioned Employee May 16, 2013 at 11:41 am

I think this needs to be explored further with a lawyer.

Negative urine test indicates that OP stopped using. That should be good enough. Furthermore, the hair test might have been a dreaded false positive.

I have never in my life used any illegal drugs, but I have read plenty of horror stories about false positives coming from taking a perfectly legal cold or headache medicine.

A few years ago I had to go an ER with pain so extreme it required a shot of morphine. Imagine having to take a drug test shortly after that. At the very least I would have to do a lot explaining and providing documentation that would reveal highly private information. Or the employer could have simply revoked the offer saying: “We don’t care why you tested positive.”

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Just a Reader May 16, 2013 at 11:44 am

Well, the goal is to become employed. Litigiously flying off the handle won’t make that happen but it can get you a reputation for being difficult and punitive.

Nobody has to take a drug test–you can pull out of the hiring process instead.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

Hair retains evidence of drug use far, far longer than urine. That’s why it showed up.

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EnnVeeEl May 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I always thought hair tests were rather expensive, which is why you typically only see the urine tests. If you even see that. I’ve taken only one drug test for a job before. I’ve only heard of one person who had to submit hair. It doesn’t seem very common.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Having worked for a company that did random hair tests:

1) My understanding is that hair tests are actually pretty poor at detecting casual marijuana use, and you’d have to smoke a LOT of pot for it to show up. Urine tests are much more sensitive to THC.

2) AloeRid supposedly works wonders.

3) It’s not that difficult to find out in advance if a large company tests. The Google knows.

4) I am actually surprised at the sequence of events. From what I know of failed drug tests, the clinic typically contacts the candidate/employee first, asking if there is a possible medical explanation, and if so, for the appropriate documentation. Obviously, that’s not the case here, but if you failed because you were taking prescription marinol, you’d show the doctor’s note, and all would be fine.

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Elsa Andina May 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Hair tests are specifically used to detect the markers of (presumedly) *cocaine* (not marijuana) use. If the test was accurate in its findings, then the OP must have consumed either cocaine…

OR

…a coca-based product. For example, if they visited Peru or Bolivia and chewed coca leaves or drank coca tea – natural products that do NOT cause any intoxication or addiction and are sold in normal markets and supermarkets as typical consumer products. One would find these in most kitchen cabinets throughout the region and are both legal and traditional in the Andes region.

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Natalie May 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

That’s not generally true. Hair tests can be and are used to test for drugs other than cocaine, including marijuana.

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Jane Doe May 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

I think the problem with trying to do anything legally about this is that, drug tests aside, there’s nothing illegal about rescinding a job offer for any reason or no reason at all (provided, as Alison said, that the OP did not suffer any actual damages).

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Just Me May 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

To A Disillusioned Employee, I think had that been the case, the MRO (Medical Review Officer) at the clinic where you had been tested probably would have been the one to gather any supporting medical documentation from you, so you most likely would not have had to give any of this to the potential employer, nor would it have been passed along to the employer. Just an aside.

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Construction HR May 16, 2013 at 11:56 am

Don’t confuse the issue with actual policies and procedures, ADE would much rather go with the horror stories.

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Mimi May 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Construction HR, you’re on fire today! lol

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A Disillusioned Employee May 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

If you believe that, you might be interested in a bridge I have for sale.

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Just Me May 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

It’s not an issue of believing it or not, I handle drug screens on a regular basis, and have seen it first hand. The MRO handles all contact in positive results. Believe me, I want people to pass their drug screens, because when they don’t, I have to start from scratch in finding another suitable candidate. I take no pleasure in people failing them!!

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RG May 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

And the test can tell the difference between different types of job. If the test shows use of a legal/prescription drug, you’ll get follow up to see if you have a legitimate reason to have that in your system. But given that MJ isn’t legal (in most states) there really isn’t any reason to follow up regarding legitimate use.

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some1 May 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

The way I read the letter, the LW admits that the hair test is not a false positive, though.

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Meg May 16, 2013 at 11:56 am

Negative urine tests don’t necessarily indicate that the OP stopped using, as it’s easier to pass a urinalysis than the hair strand test. I’ve had room mates swear by certain vitamins and other ways to mask the THC in their urine to pass a urinalysis.

Why they even do both tests is beyond me, though. If a hair strand test is more accurate and harder for a drug user, or recently quit drug user, to pass – why bother doing an urinalysis if you’re requiring a hair strand test?

Also, I’m not saying the OP didn’t really quit, or that it’s appropriate for HR to say or assume, “Oh, you masked the THC in the urinalysis, we caught you with the other test, you dirty drug user!”, I’m merely reflecting that it could possibly be the logic behind the difference between a negative urinalysis vs a positive hair strand.

(And I am against pre-employment drug screening, and drug prohibition as a whole myself.)

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Laufey May 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I don’t think hair would pick up recent use though, and the urine would.

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Your Mileage May Vary May 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

This is true. You can detect THC in urine for up to 30 days, depending on metabolism. Hair screens detect past use two weeks to up to six months. However, hair screens rely on the amount of drug use. If you smoke a joint at a party three months ago and that was your only drug use, it very likely wouldn’t show up on a hair screen at all. But OP says they were a heavy user. That would put them in the category of having it hang around in the hair for closer to six months.

I was in court once when I worked for child and family services (where a lot of our clients were drug users). Our problem was that we wanted a father of one of our foster children tested. He had denuded his entire body of hair. So we brought it to the judge to see what he wanted to do. Judge held him in jail on contempt charges until enough hair grew back to test.

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Meg May 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Like … everything? Leg hair, head hair, pubic hair? I’m trying to picture this!

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Your Mileage May Vary May 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Everything. This was not his usual state; we worked with him for a while and our procedure for drug tests was to call the client and ask them to show up to the clinic within a certain amount of time, up to 24 hours. So he had time to shave his entire body before he showed up.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

…Eyebrows?!

o____O

I guess that’s dedication…

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JessB May 17, 2013 at 6:09 am

A football player here in Australia did this when he was due for a drug test – they needed hair longer than 1cm to test, and he did not have any hair that was suitable. He hadn’t shaved himself bald, and he wasn’t completely hairless, but he didn’t have any hair long enough for them to test.

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Natalie May 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

In my experience, urinalysis is easy to pass unless one is a very heavy drug user. No vitamins or weird potions needed.

At an earlier point in my life I smoked pot fairly regularly, and when I had to pass a drug screen for a job I simply abstained for about a week and drank a lot of water. And my work was never affected by my off work hours marijuana use.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Hair only picks up after a certain amount of time. Also I think hair only shows certain drugs and urine can show others as well.

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Nicole May 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

Well, sure, but they can also revoke an offer because they found out you’re a natural redhead, like cats, they were having a bad day, decided on an internal candidate, sent you the wrong form email, or didn’t have the room in the budget they thought they did. None of that is illegal, it’s their company and they can (within certain parameters that don’t appear to apply here) hire who they want to hire to work for them. Lawyers really only belong in situations dealing with legal matters.

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Legal Eagle May 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

This is not something that needs to be explored with a lawyer. Candidates can be rejected. Offers can be rescinded. People can be fired.

False positives occur in any form of testing. If the OP said that he never did any drugs and failed the drug test anyway, this would be an entirely different question. Even still, talking to a lawyer and trying to get someone fired would still be the wrong course of action.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

If the OP said they never did drugs, there could be a valid argument for re-testing. That’s reasonable. But I also could probably guarantee that they took more than one hair and if it came up positive they did it twice to check. Most places divide the samples in case of things like this.

My issue with drug testing is there’s actually no way to ON the record input information that could change the results AND that they’re really not required to tell you they rescinded because you “failed,” which means if there genuinely IS an error you have no recourse because you don’t KNOW about it.

There really needs to be a requirement (like with credit reports) that if someone makes a negative decision due to a test, you have to be notified of the test results so you can contest them if you need to. If they run your credit and turn you down you get a thing from the credit place saying “you were turned down because of x information from y credit bureau, here’s what to do if it’s wrong.” They need to have the same thing for ANY test you’re given pre-employment like drugs etc.

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Kelsey N May 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm

But it’s not like when you get the adverse action letter after a credit check that there’s any way to save the job (or loan, or whatever). The answer is already no. They give you the contact info for the credit reporting agency so you can dispute it with them if there’s an error; you can’t come back after it’s fixed (if it ever gets fixed, which is debatable) and get the job you should have gotten.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Yup. I think people often don’t think through to the realities of what would happen if they dispute job rejections. Even if you did end up in the job, it’s not a do-over–you’d be treated very differently. And, of course, mostly there’s no way you’d end up in the job, and anything else that happens, like legal action, takes its sweet time, so you need to move onto in the meantime.

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Natalie May 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

It depends on the time frame. In my state, job applicants have the right to get re-tested, but they have to contest it with 3 days, get re-tested within 5 days, and pay for the re-test. If the 2nd test comes back negative, the employer cannot take any “adverse personnel action” against the applicant. Presumably within that specified time frame, the job is still available.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Oh, that’s really interesting–I didn’t know that. I really like that right to contest.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Exactly, my point was that the rules should require the person be TOLD they are being refused for a drug test. The problem here is I have seen and heard of people being refused a job and never being TOLD they “failed the drug test,” because there’s no law requiring them to be informed of this information.

Will there still be people who are refused again yes. But the person should have the right to say “hey I have been prescribed X. The drug test showed I was taking x the way the prescription tells me to.”

Right now there is nothing BEFORE testing that allows you to report to the testing centre that you take x medications, prescribed by x doctor and have that noted BEFORE you take the test.

I should know this. I have in the past been ON narcotic pain medicines. The last time I had to be tested I was not, but when I tried to tell the people what meds I was prescribed to take I was told “they don’t have anywhere to put that and it doesn’t matter, because they don’t test for that.”

Bunk. Most people with false positives or positives based on legally acquired and taken meds could stop the problem in advance if they were able to submit a list of medications. With the number of a physician to check on.

My main point is unlike the credit thing where they mail you something, you should by statute have to be informed if you’re turned down for failing that test IMMEDIATELY the information is available.

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kimberly May 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm

that is odd …. EVERY drug test I’ve ever taken has asked for a list of all medications I’ve taken in the past 30 days (and I’m in a field where every job requires a drug test so I’ve taken many)

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OneoftheMichelles May 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I agree that anyone getting a positive drug result needs to be notified…like your idea of automatic policy/law.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Yeh I also think though that the method needs to be changed. They should require you to provide a list of medications you are on and the name of the doctor that prescribed them. So if a positive comes up they check against what you’re legally allowed to take.

Because being refused for failing a test due to legal medication is a different issue. And in that case it needs to be because for instance “pilots cannot take prescription narcotics.” Not because “you failed a drug test.”

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anon in tejas May 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

What’s the objective to further exploring this with an attorney?

To get him an internship at an employer that had to go through legal process and was forced to hire him? that’s going to be a GREAT first summer internship.

There are a number of reasons why he failed. An employer can withhold or rescind a written offer on a number of conditions (often detailed in the offer).

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:28 pm

You’re allowed to declare prescription medications in these situations. Yes, it takes another day to speak with the doctor and pharmacist, but things should work out ok.

I take medicine for ADHD, and when I had the phone call saying I tested positive for meth, my response was, “Yep, I’m high as a kite right now* Here’s the numbers you need to contact the doctors.” And a day later everything was cool.

*No I didn’t actually say this, but it would have been fun. ;)

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Jamie May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I’ve never even had to give a number. Just having a current prescription bottle was enough.

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Laura May 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

Also, be aware that if you have dark hair rather than light colored, the THC can be detected for longer periods of time after usage.

Which is just one of the crazy things I learned working at a medical marijuana health care office. The biggest lessons I took away from that job were:

1. I never ever want to have a chronic illness ever.
2. Marijuana needs to be changed from a Schedule I substance to make scientific research more widely available and funded. As it stands, a vast majority of research is banned outright.

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Annie The Mouse May 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm

So agree on this. A dear friend from college developed a form of cancer so rare that there wasn’t even a formal name for it. He went through round after round of chemo, and pot was the only thing that made him able to eat. He’s alive and well now because he was able to take nourishment and have the strength to keep fighting.

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nyxalinth May 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I have some friends who need medical marijuana to ease their HiV symptoms. So I fully support that.

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A Disillusioned Employee May 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm

But do you know that employers do not have to recognize medical MJ? Test positive and the job offer is gone, medical or not.

Like Laura said, I hope I never get that sick.

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EnnVeeEl May 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

I don’t think the OP should be beat up over the skewed thinking…because A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THIS WAY ABOUT THE WORK WORLD.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with enraged people, right or wrong, about something that happened to them at work, and how they are going to take the whole organization down, and you try to tell them, no, you won’t, but you will go down in flames trying and they won’t listen.

Some of these people are old enough to know better. Crappy, unfair things happen in the work world all the time. You have to move on. Most of the time it’s not worth putting your entire career at risk.

I’ve also had similar conversations with these same kinds of people about how things you do outside of work can indeed limit career opportunities and maybe get you fired. Talking crazy on blogs and social media, inappropriate pictures, getting arrested for silly stuff and yes, drug use can hurt you. They tell me it’s not fair to judge people on what they do outside of work. My answer: But they do.

I’m not here to say what is right or wrong. It’s just the way it is.

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some1 May 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

This is a good point, too. I have a former co-worker (who has an graduate degree and is over 40) who got written up for trashing the company on Facebook. Instead of admitting he just made a poor decision, he became obsessed with (1) trying to find out told management about it, and (2) that the company was violating his right to Free Speech.

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EnnVeeEl May 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

See what I mean? Now, FIRING someone over a FB post is a bit extreme to me, but I’m not in charge. Someone else is. People need to be aware that folks can and do get fired for this type of thing. And no, dear friends, doesn’t matter if you are in a “protected class” either. A Twitter rant about your manager, his mama and the company will probably get you canned.

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MrsKDD May 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Too true. We recently had to turn someone down for a role because a quick search on facebook showed the candidate doing drugs and drinking underage. This candidate came across fantastic in their interviews and probably is a great kid, but because the role involved working with children, we wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. If we were able to find them on fb so easily, what’s saying a parent of one of the kids they would have been working with wouldn’t? Hiring managers have to do what’s best for the organization in these situations.

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EnnVeeEl May 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

+1

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some1 May 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

To me it wouldn’t be so much the drugs or underage drinking (because a lot of people do that when they are young), it would be the lack of judgement of either posting the pics or not untagging someone else’s.

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some1 May 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm

“A Twitter rant about your manager, his mama and the company will probably get you canned.”

Exactly. All Free Speech means is that the government can’t imprison you for it, it doesn’t mean your boss can’t fire or discipline you.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

And *everybody* is in at least a couple of “protected classes.”

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm

As a straight, white male, born and raised in the US, of the dominant religion, with no disabilities or major health issues, under the age of 40, I disagree with this statement.

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Laura May 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

You’re in the ultimate protected class though. =)

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Privileged, yes. Protected, no.

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Jamie May 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Sure you are. You may not need the protection as much as others but you’re just as protected from being discriminated against because of your gender, race, or religion as anyone else.

Josh S May 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I’m not even sure that’s accurate. I’m certainly not a “protected class” in the way I’ve heard it described before.

I mean, in a common sense world, you’re absolutely right. But in the world of HR/Employment Law, I’m not quite sure it works out that way.

(All of this is from secondhand/gleaned information, so if you know that a white male is a protected class in the same way as, say, a Latina female is, please correct me.)

Kathryn T. May 17, 2013 at 12:32 am

Protected, yes! You can’t be fired because you’re white. You can’t be fired because you’re male. You can’t be fired because you belong to the dominant religion. The fact that you’re less likely to need these protections is part of the aforementioned privilege — but they exist for you as much as for a Latina woman.

fposte May 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I don’t see how you can. Protected classes aren’t kinds of races or kinds of gender–it’s the fact of having a race and having a gender that gives you protection. You’ve just stated that you have a race and a gender, so you are covered under Title VII as a result.

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W.W.A. May 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm

It never ceases to amuse me that people think “free speech” means you can call your boss a horse’s ass and he can’t fire you.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Thank you. I swear some people need signs attached to them so they can re-read them. Free Speech is a prohibition against government telling you what to say. Almost all private businesses and individuals do not count in this. The exceptions are rare enough that they don’t matter.

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Yup May 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Or that you can whatever you want to others, but that they can’t respond in kind. Somehow “free speech” got conflated with “voicing my opinions with no consequences or repercussions.” I don’t get it either.

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Chinook May 16, 2013 at 5:25 pm

“It never ceases to amuse me that people think “free speech” means you can call your boss a horse’s ass and he can’t fire you.”

Sure, you are free to call herthat but she is also free to say “You’re fired”. Freedom works both ways.

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OolonColuphid May 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

What the hell does occasional marijuana use on your own time have to do with your performance at work? I don’t even use the stuff, but I do know that it’s no worse than having a few drinks from time to time.

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Adam V May 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I agree with you. However, if a company makes a decision that “we’d rather not hire people who smoke illegal materials” (the illegality of which is a separate fight), don’t you agree they have a right to make that decision, and so long as they’re forthcoming about it, they’re essentially no different than companies that will admit other things about their corporate culture that might turn off potential employees?

My first company gave regular drug tests on-campus, something like the first Tuesday of every month (they only tested a small group each month, and a coworker of mine wrote the program that randomly picked names out of the hat). One time, a coworker (who wasn’t a drug user, but was just fed up with taking the tests) decided he wanted to opt out.

That afternoon, he was brought to his manager and told “you can either leave now, go to the clinic and take the test (the testers had already left the building), or you can be fired”, at which point they showed him an already-written notice of termination. He ended up leaving to take the test, which he passed, but he didn’t work there too much longer. It was just a culture clash, and he had other options.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I don’t think most companies care; I think their insurance companies do. Nobody wants to fire otherwise good employees or lose otherwise good candidates because they smoke a joint now and again.

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Jamie May 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

This. I’m not in favor of testing when safety isn’t involved, but there are deep discounts for maintaining a “drug free workplace” and for many insurance companies the criteria to meet that is pre-employment screening, ability to test employees, and zero tolerance for positive tests.

It’s very black and white and few companies want to give up what can be tens of thousands of dollars in discounted rates.

I have never heard of hair tests irl personally, that’s really expensive.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Sure, it’s their right to do so, but it’s ridiculous and people should condemn them for it, not act like it’s no big deal. It’s a big deal, just like it would be if they wanted you to fill out a questionnaire about your sex life or swear an oath not to consort with Scottish people or something.

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Carrie in Scotland May 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Ha! Scottish people :-)

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I dunno…those Scots can be dangerous, what with the kilts and the sexy accents…

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EngineerGirl May 16, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Ha! I do remember one wedding where the boys had a wee bit too much and the women had to take the daggers away.

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Alexi May 16, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Well it’s no big deal to me and I think it would be stupid to condemn them for doing so. I’m perfectly happy not to work around people who do drugs. Honestly, if for no other reason than you (well, I, at least) often befriend and socialize with people you work with and I don’t want to hang out with people who want to do drugs around me or may happen to have illegal drugs on them when we’re together. Clearly you’re at the opposite end of the spectrum as me, but I have no shame in saying I’m not ok with drug use, I don’t want to be around it or work around it. As for legalization, it’s bad enough I have to smell and breathe in cigarette smoke everywhere I go, now I might have to deal with pot too? Yuck.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 11:42 pm

For whatever it’s worth, I think you have an odd idea of how this works. Very few drug users would enjoy stealthily doing drugs around someone else. It’s problem drug users who do that, not most people. (Just like most drinkers don’t stealthily drink around other people. It’s a situation where drinking is okay or isn’t, but they’re not generally sneaking sips from a flask when you’re not looking.)

But “I want to be able to be friends with the people I work with” isn’t a reason for an employment policy.

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Cassie May 16, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Maybe it doesn’t, but it’s still the company’s right to do drug testing. The OP knew that he was going to be drug-tested. I assume once he realized they were going to do a hair test, he could have decided to withdraw his candidacy and therefore refuse to be tested? Unless the technician (or whomever it is that does these tests) just reached out and plucked a hair off the OP’s head?

AAM frequently talks about how interviews aren’t just for the company to determine if an applicant is a good fit. It’s also a chance for the applicant to determine if the company is a good fit for him or herself. So this particular employer frowns upon drug use (or at least testing positive for drug use). There are probably other companies that don’t care. Look for a company whose culture is a better fit. (And yes, I know, in this economy jobs are difficult to come by…).

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David May 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

Hey guys, I’m the one who posted the question. I realized shortly after posting the question that I was obviously being unreasonable putting far too much blame on the HR rep. I don’t believe I would have actually attempted to try and get her fired. Same goes for any sort of litigation.

Once I had calmed down and given it a nights rest I realized there was nothing to do but move on, and the answer I got here reaffirmed that for me.

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Chriama May 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hey, kudos to you for coming back and taking the comments in stride. It really sucks, but I think some other posters here have great advice for talking to people about it. You really don’t need to feel like you’ll suffer a huge social embarrassment, and you’ve learned Alison’s rule about job offers: namely, you don’t have an offer until you have an offer!

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The IT Manager May 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

:) Great response. I’m sure you’ll recover from this set back.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I was about to ask you, the OP, the question: even if it were possible, would you want to get fired if you made one mistake?

But you’ve answered that question already. Hang in there, and good luck!

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Especially since the mistake wasn’t REALLY theirs, they probably had tested 100s of employees and never had one test pass and one fail before and the HR rep is probably now been lectured “do not give results without both tests.”

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Lisel May 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Lectured, at least; I’d hope for being written up or some other form of discipline. It was actually a big mistake to make.

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Legal Eagle May 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Good for you! Calming down and “sleeping on it” is a good course of action before making any large decision, in my opinion.

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Chinook May 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm

David, thank you for admitting that and showing that a good night’s sleep can sometime’s change your perspective.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Good work. And it was smart of you to email somebody other than the job when you were in that first angry mode :-).

A whole lot of life is letting go of stuff that should have been handled better than it was. Sounds like you’re well on your way on that learning curve; good luck to you in your job search.

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KimmieSue May 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Good for you David. I’m happy to see your change of heart as well as your ability to admit that you might have reacted in haste. This is a really good example of accountability.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Sorry. That situation really sucks and I understand why you’re angry. Just tell people “it didn’t work out” and move on.

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Kate May 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

If it makes you feel better, you’re not the first person to deal with this. My friend had a similar situation, except with a single sleeping pill she didn’t have a prescription for instead of weed. Instead of a prestigious summer internship, she was left scrambling for something kinda sorta related to her field. Post-grad, she was still hired by the top organization in her field. The situation was upsetting and embarrassing, but it had zero long term impact on her career. This is a set back, but if you’re good enough to get hired for this, you’ll have similar opportunities at other companies. Best of luck!

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Ellie H. May 16, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Good luck and this is a really nice response. I hope that some of the suggestions here are useful to you!

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anon in tejas May 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm

good luck David! It sounds like you really took some time to think it through and cool down!

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little written rant every now and again. It completely sucks about what happened, but on the bright side you’ve been offered a job on the merits of your cover letter/resume, experience, education and interviewing skills. You’re much farther ahead than most folks, so just keep at it.

Best of luck to you!

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I don’t think you’d want to take this approach in the current situation, since you obviously have strong feelings against the company. But in the future, for companies that do (hair) drug testing, you might be up front about your history and decision to change (as well as any steps you’ve taken to stay clean, like participation in Addicts Anonymous or something…not saying that you have to, just that it might help your case). And do it PRIOR to taking the drug test, so you’re really being up front about it.

I don’t know the time frame involved with how long it takes for that to get out of your system, but it’s one option for dealing with this scenario in the future.

Good luck to your job hunt! And mega-props for coming back and weighing in despite the slew of very negative comments!

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Hello Vino May 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

Wow, this is a tough situation. It sucks, and yes, it is embarrassing. I remember being naive when I was fresh out of school, but as long as you steer clear of any vindictiveness and sense of self-entitlement, things will start going your way. Take this all as a learning experience, stay positive, and move on. Good luck, OP!

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Liz in the City May 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Hey, OP,
I had a similar situation, though it had nothing to do with drug tests, but everything to do with an HR rep. I had been extended an offer for what would have been my first-ever post-grad job. The HR rep called me with the good news on Wednesday, telling me she was sending me my packet to sign and return so that I’d be officially hired. On Friday on the way to the congratulatory dinner for said job, I got a voicemail saying she’d just gotten word there was a company-wide hiring freeze and they’d have to hold off on the offer. To say I was devastated and completely angry would be an understatement.

In the end, I never worked for that company. I moved on in my life and really, it worked out for the best.

Just be aware that other companies / the industry you’re applying in may require drug tests, so use accordingly.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

A hiring freeze isn’t the fault of the HR rep, though…

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Mimi May 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm

How was that the HR rep’s fault? She made the offer based on the info she had. I can see being really, really upset about it, but the company-wide hiring freeze isn’t her fault.

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Liz in the City May 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I guess it wasn’t completely her fault, but from what I can recall, the hiring freeze had happened that Monday and she had offered me the job after the freeze was in place, thinking I’d be exempt because I was already so far along in the process. I was also upset that she had left me a voicemail about it, which at the time, I thought was impersonal and cold. IDK, I was a much younger Liz. Today, I’d just be like “whatevs.”

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Okay that is the rep’s fault if they didn’t at least qualify the offer with “if the freeze is off or if you’re exempt because you’re already in the pipeline.” And then they should have kicked the ball upstairs and made SURE.

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Tiff May 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

OP, first of all you need a haircut. If you’re confident that you’ll pass a urine test, a haircut should help with the rest.

Second, like most others have mentioned, get a new perspective. You’re still relatively new to working and you just got a valuable lesson. The last thing you should do is compound the situation by calling attention to your pot smoking, which is all your complaint would do.

On a side note, I’ll be VERY relieved when marijuana is legalized. I have relished every opportunity so far to vote for this issue.

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HR Pufnstuf May 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I’m in WA. State and it’s legalized, however it’s still legal for employers to to test and not hire if found positive.

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Tiff May 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Really? Do you think that the companies who continue to drug test are doing so in opposition to the recent legalization, or do you think that their HR departments simply haven’t caught up?

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

It’s the insurance companies.

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The IT Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I’d also guess that large national companies (which are more likely to test anyway) may have policies for all their branches that don’t take into account the new law. Their leadership is less likely to approve of the legalizationsation of majuarana anyway.

And again, it’s not illegal to discriminate against marjuana users so there’s no reason for them to change their policy even for those crazy, granola eating, hippy states. (that’s a bit of humor)

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Their leadership is less likely to approve of the legalizationsation of majuarana anyway.

Actually, you might be surprised at where support for ending marijuana prohibition is found — lots of business people, etc. It’s no longer the hippie issue it once was; it’s fairly mainstream.

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Natalie May 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I would guess that as the post baby-boom generations continue to age and move into leadership positions, the Overton window will shift. In 15 years we went from “oh, I never inhaled” to a president that was quite frank about his youthful drug use, including drugs a lot of people think are way beyond the pale.

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The IT Manager May 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I’ll admit I am generalizing wildly. Personally as a technocrat I support the legalization of marajuana – the science and research show that the negative impact of smoking is far, far, far less than the negative impact of enforcement as an illegal drug.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm

It’s still illegal under federal law, even where states have legalized it. So there’s a weird state/federal conflict going on (with state medical marijuana laws too) that will come to a head at some point, probably after a critical mass of states have passed their own laws, which is approaching at an increasingly rapid pace.

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Yeah, just wait until WA and CO start collecting sales tax. The other states will jump right in.

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HR Pufnstuf May 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

It’ll be interesting to see what WA State comes up with. The taxation is as very “high” and will signifigantly increase cost. This is for a market that has an established sales and buying market that had no issues operating illegally.

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HR Pufnstuf May 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

And despite what my screen name may imply, I don’t indulge nor am I anti.

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Josh S May 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Yeah, the interesting thing is that the federal gov’t really doesn’t have jurisdiction in any of the states (apart from on Native American Reservations), so unless the issue crosses state lines (making it Federal jurisdiction) or the FBI finds it within their purview to enforce (unlikely to happen any time soon for manpower and scope reasons), state law tends to rule.

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

They’re likely government contractors, at least with the company I work for. I’m sure they’d love to only test for obvious signs like workplace accidents instead.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I don’t think so, because legalization does not equal protected class. (NOTE: I am not a lawyer.)

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HR Pufnstuf May 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm

They will continue to do screening. Many, many companies addressed this after the law came into effect.

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ThursdaysGeek May 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Yup. Both my employer and my husband’s have made it clear that they still check for pot in drug screenings (pre and during employement), and will fire if you’re using it.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Jeez, that’s dumb. In that case, they should also test (?) and fire people for drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, since both are also legal and very arguably more dangerous/health adverse!

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm

And some workplaces do forbid those.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

At least it would be consistent in forbidding all substances, even if I wouldn’t work there in a million years. Heck, then caffeine should be added to the list for good measure.

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Yvi May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Smoking cigarettes in your free time?

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Jamie May 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Sure – some workplaces refuse to hire smokers.

And if in some bizarre universe they did hair testing for that and in applying they saw that I quit 5 months ago (which I did) they would rightfully assess me at a higher risk for smoking in the future than someone who had never smoked.

If it’s not legally protected they can screen for whatever they want.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Congratulations on quitting!

Jamie May 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Thanks. :). I had the flu in December and just never started again after I recovered.

The cool thing though is once it stuck for me my husband finally quit. He’d tried so many times over the years and nothing worked but he got one of those electronic cigarettes and that finally did it. He still likes it even though he’s down to no nicotine in it now. 2 months for him yesterday.

Since he started the electric thing he reminds me of Burgess Meredith’s version of The Penguin – but I’m so proud of him he could start carrying and umbrella and honking and that would be just fine!

ThursdaysGeek May 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Yes and no. Pot is legal in Washington, but still illegal federally, whereas cigarettes and alcohol are completely legal. My company works out of multiple states, and pot is illegal in the others. So it’s consistant for the company to follow federal law under these circumstances. My husband’s company does federal government work, with government agencies — it’s going to go with federal law too.

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mollsbot May 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

OP,

Do you think you could call the HR manager and tell them that you are no longer smoking weed? I know of a few situations (while working for local government) where new hires failed a drug test then explained to the hiring personnel that they are recreational smokers and they have never, and will never, come to work under the influence. In your situation, you are no longer a smoker. It may be worth it to call and explain that.

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Elle D. May 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I really think this depends on the company culture and possibly even the personal views of the hiring manager/HR. Some companies might appreciate the candor and reconsider especially since the urine test came up clean, others might not appreciate the admission of recent use of an illegal substance.

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mollsbot May 16, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Yeah, it does depend on the company culture so it might be worth it to ask.

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

If the company is going to the expense of doing a hair test, they are not going to be receptive to somebody who used 5 months ago. You are going to be too big of a risk that you are going to “slip” and then they have to go to the expense of firing you. Or worse, you end up designing a bridge that is inadequate because you went out with the boyz a couple nights ago.

Companies have reasons why they don’t want drug users working for them. Whether those are logical reasons or not is up for debate.

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Mike C. May 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Come on now, have you ever heard of quality control or an engineering review? No one single person designs anything that has the chance to kill people. If it’s really serious, you repeat the whole process with government inspectors as well.

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm

QC is one of the boyz.

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W.W.A. May 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm

If I am in a job interview process and they tell me I have to pass a drug screen, that’s when I take myself out of the running. I know they don’t want people showing up for work stoned, but to me a drug screen is like doing a test to see if I’ve had alcohol sometime in the past 30 days. What I do in my free time is my own business; I don’t believe in morality clauses; and I will only work for companies that respect that.

I know not everybody has the luxury of standing on principle, however.

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Liz in a Library May 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I agree with you, and this is what frustrates me so much about drug testing. I hate pot (it nauseates me, not that I hate the idea of it), but I don’t see why my friends who smoke are assumed to be more likely to show up for work high than I (a consumer of alcohol) would be to show up drunk.

Adults can smoke recreationally and never have it impact their jobs a bit.

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A-a-anonymous May 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I think a key difference is that, in most places, pot is still illegal. Whether we agree with that illegality or not, employers do have right to decide not to employ people who engage in illegal activities in their off time.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm

No one is disputing their right to — only saying that it’s absurd and offensive, and something that people should condemn.

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Joey May 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I’m interested in your comment about condemning. does that include all illegal drugs, just marijuana, or is there some qualifier?

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Personally, I don’t believe in drug prohibition at all, across the board. My body, my brain, I decide what goes in them.

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EngineerGirl May 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm

You know I respect you, right? But after years of working with kids whose parents abused drugs I must disagree. One of the most disturbing was a baby who’s mother used cocaine while pregnant. Severe neurological issues.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Yes, and drug prohibition hasn’t stopped that from happening. People who want to use drugs will do so; laws against it clearly don’t stop them. In fact, prohibition makes the problem worse, because it has removed our ability to reduce the harm associated with drug use and ensured that the drug market is utterly unregulated and uncontrolled.

In addition, prohibition — aside from not working to stop drug use — causes all sorts of other harms, including overburdening police, the courts, and prisons; making it harder to keep drugs out of the hands of teenagers (because drug dealers certainly don’t card), using a huge amount of taxpayer resources; and locking up millions of otherwise law-abiding and responsible adults for what they do in the privacy of their own homes. It’s time for a more sensible approach.

EngineerGirl May 16, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Yet the legal drugs (alcohol & tobacco) give us the most problems

KellyK May 17, 2013 at 9:14 am

Worse than fetal alcohol syndrome? Or birth defects caused by prescription meds?

Joey May 16, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Except that employers and other employees bear a significant cost of any healthcare issues that come with the strong substances you put in your body.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Yes, but we’re not refusing to hire meat-eaters, drinkers, or Twinkie addicts.

Joey May 16, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Aren’t we on our way there though? Wellness incentives? Non smoking policies? Company sponsored health screenings?

aren’t we becoming a society that is fed up with paying the ever increasing costs of other people’s problems?

KellyK May 17, 2013 at 9:17 am

Joey, I think we’re more becoming a society that thinks other people’s bodies are our business–but only if they’re taking risks that we find immoral or icky. (We don’t refuse to hire people who run marathons, climb mountains and skydive, despite all those expensive injuries, because those activities are viewed as virtuous.)

Natalie May 17, 2013 at 9:26 am

IMO the solution to that is to decouple health care and employment.

Joey May 17, 2013 at 11:16 am

No, I think its because those activities are accepted as healthy. They’re not much different from a fall on a bike or getting hit by a car while running. I think we can accept accidents. The difference with pot is more like other unhealthy choices.

Personally I could care less what you choose to do as long as I don’t have to bear the costs of it. When I have to subsidize your poor choices then I’m going to have a problem.

KellyK May 17, 2013 at 11:32 am

I would argue that we view them as “healthy” because we have a very Puritan concept of health that conflates it with virtue and that emphasizes exertion and denial, regardless of the actual risks. I’m not talking about just accidents, but about long-term damage too.

Is there actual evidence that pot-smoking is a higher-risk activity than marathon-running?

Ask a Manager May 17, 2013 at 11:35 am

Smoking anything isn’t a great idea, health-wise (although there’s less smoking involved with marijuana than cigarettes, for example), but as for eating marijuana in edibles, there’s little evidence of serious health impacts. It’s part of the reason why states are increasingly moving to a different model of regulating it.

Joey May 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Are you saying that the majority of pot users eat and don’t smoke?

W.W.A. May 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

You’re right, but a) this doesn’t ever extend to preventing employees from beating their wives or drinking and driving; you can’t test for those on your first day. And b) an employee could drink to excess every weekend and be an absolute basket case, but this isn’t illegal and so would probably not impact a hiring decision unless said alcoholism eventually (down the line) impacted job performance.

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Rana May 16, 2013 at 10:14 pm

The problem with that standard “don’t do anything illegal, ever” though, is that the great majority of us do in fact break the law in small ways every day. Ever sped to work? Ever jaywalked? Ever had a piece of paper fall out of your pocket that you didn’t see and throw away? Congrats! You’ve just “engaged in an illegal activity”!

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Joey May 16, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I’m not sure about you, but I’d much rather deal with a ticket for speeding, jaywalking, or littering.

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Rana May 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Well, me too, but I think you get my point: citing “illegal activity” alone as a justification to exclude marijuana use as acceptable is an insufficient argument. There are many things that are technically illegal that we turn a blind eye to, so if marijuana use is not one of them, people need to explain what makes it different from other acceptable behaviors (alcohol use, speeding) if they’re going to use it in hiring situations.

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Adam V May 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Exactly. They tell you something about their culture that you disagree with, and you self-select out of the interview process (similar to them telling you that they need you to be on call on weekends, work 75+ hours a week, etc.). They’re free to make whatever choices to run their business that they like, and probably won’t change until they know that it’s costing them workers.

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Heather May 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm

+1

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Elle-p May 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I have a related question about all this. I’m not in the U.S. and so I’m not familiar with the practice of pre-employment drug testing, but is one failed drug test enough to have a person blacklisted from an employer? If not, is there any sort of response the OP could give to increase their chances of being considered for a future position (for example, acknowleding that he’s quit using as he did in his letter to AAM), or is it best to silently accept their decision and let sleeping dogs lie? I’m trying to imagine my response if a similar situation happened with a potential hire in my workplace and I’m not sure which response would be better.

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm

That door is probably closed for that candidate.

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Dana May 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Drug screenings are the worst! You feel like a criminal while they are being done and the whole thing is really awkward. I was screened for a temp job in the apparel industry which I thought was really weird. Three months later when they offered me a full time position I had to go for one again. Shorty after I was hired they stopped drug screening altogether.

On a separate note, I feel like a hair test is really unfair. I’m not sure how the process works, but from the comments above it seems like people with very short hair, or no hair at all are at an advantage over people with long hair.

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Jessa May 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Actually they’re not, they’re at a HUGE disadvantage. Body hair tests longer and more accurately BECAUSE people don’t cut, colour or otherwise chemically mess with it very often. So someone having to use body hair in the test because head hair is not available…more likely to get caught if there’s something to catch.

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ThursdaysGeek May 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm

And I’ve got hair past my waist that has never been colored or messed with chemically, nor cut for decades. It’s probably a good thing I’ve never tried pot.

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Yvi May 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm

But whether or not you cut it, it falls out. I can’t imagine that any of my body hair is older than a year or so.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

It’s about 1/2″ per month for head hair, so you can pretty easily get two years’ worth of drug testing if you have hair Thursday’s length.

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Yvi May 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Ouups, meant to reply one level above Thursday’s comment.

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Your Mileage May Vary May 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm

But I think the drug residue (? — not sure of the right word here) degrades as the hair ages. So even if you had longer hair, it wouldn’t show years of use, only a few months.

Now, if CSI: Miami is to be believed*, ocular fluid shows drug use for the rest of your life.

*Would Horatio Caine lie to me?

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Zahra May 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Head hair can be as old as 6 years old, and body hair would be about 1-1.5 years old.

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Annie May 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Actually, they account for that when they do the tests. I had to do one for an internship, and they cut a small amount of hair at the roots, and only used the centimeter or so closest to the head. If they can’t get a centimeter of hair (usually from guys with shaved heads), they go for armpit hair or chest hair.

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pidgeonpenelope May 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Let me get this straight. The OP knowingly committed an illegal act (even if it shouldn’t be), took a drug test, failed the drug test, and even though the HR rep made one mistake, the OP wants to get this person fired!?!? It sounds like the job rejection was a good thing for the company because this person sounds like they would be horrid to work with.

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Katie the Fed May 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I can’t fathom doing drugs when you know you’re going to be on the job market within a year.

I have a friend who made all the way through the foreign service test, interviews, and everything, had an offer and then lost it because she couldn’t get a clearance because she had smoked pot a few months prior. She was outraged. I wanted to throttle her.

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The IT Manager May 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

While I wouldn’t go as far as you – “when you know you’re going to be on the job market within a year” – good Lord your friend made a dumb mistake. There’s no way not to know that that kind of job does drug tests and won’t be forgiving of drug use.

Oddly enough, I’d also go farther “I can’t fathom doing drugs” full stop. I also not very fond of drinking alcohol. I have zero desire to have my mindor normal actions altered.

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Not everybody drug tests.

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Amy May 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I’m curious about if hypothetically a person used marijuana in a legal context (aka while on vacation in Amsterdam or while studying abroad), and thus failed the drug test, would there still be ramifications? Especially if they were not a recreational user in the states due to fear of the law…

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Yes. I have a family member who uses marijuana medically (and has a legal card), and she would still fail a drug test and be fired from almost all companies that screen. It wouldn’t be fair, but it is what it is. Luckily, her current company doesn’t have dumb policies like that.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I should note that I say “almost all companies” because I allow for the possibility that a few or more would be understanding of her medical situation. However, if it’s ultimately an insurance issue, messed up as it might be (since it’s medical to begin with!), it would out of their hands.

And frankly, I still think it’s dumb when this happens to someone who uses pot recreationally in a state where pot is illegal. But it’s especially egregious that someone who is getting legal relief from chemo treatments or glaucoma, etc has to fear repercussions.

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A Bug! May 16, 2013 at 5:07 pm

It’s interesting that companies would be allowed to discriminate on that basis. Isn’t disability a protected class in (most?) states? If a person has a legal prescription for marijuana I would think that testing positive for pot on a drug screen shouldn’t disqualify the person because the person’s use of pot is legal.

Unless it’s like, a heavy-equipment job or something with a very high standard for safety like nuclear safety stuff, in which case not being a pot user at all might be a valid job requirement.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 5:54 pm

It’s not a blanket protection–that’s the whole reasonable accommodation/interactive process thing. As Alison notes, the tricky thing here is that federally, pot is still illegal, so I suspect you can’t really use another federal law to protect your right to use it. I believe there’s also a complication in that you can’t even get tinctures or anything (synthetic equivalent only, I believe), so it’s a highly uncontrolled and inconsistent delivery system based on a pretty variable raw material, and I don’t think you could guarantee that you could always hit “analgesia” without including “high.”

The Glaucoma Research Foundation says that you can’t really get enough medication from smoking to help with glaucoma, but I don’t know enough about them to know whether they might Have Reasons for saying that.

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A Bug! May 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Yeah, I guess that makes it pretty tricky; thanks for explaining. I just kind of thought that marijuana was a “controlled substance” – that is to say, having and using it is only illegal if you’re doing so without a prescription or otherwise have legal permission. Apparently marijuana’s a special little snowflake! (Surprise!)

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

There could still be hiring ramifications, because there’s no law that says there can’t be, and because the insurance benefits that they’re after would still apply. It’s not just about doing something that’s illegal–they could test you for cola consumption and reject you for that too.

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W.W.A. May 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Yes because this is effectively a morality clause. They don’t want the “type of person” who would do drugs, even if it’s in a legal context or whatever other scenario you might come up with.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Ha, particularly in the context of my above comments, it’s hard not to feel angry about that idea.

“Oh, man, gotta watch out for those CHEMO PATIENTS with LEGAL MEDICATION. They’re trouble.”

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Juni May 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Maybe I read past one of the comments that stated this, but wow, how about a little bit of empathy for the HR person? There are a lot of managers like AAM who don’t think drug testing is a great idea and wish it weren’t happening. Imagine how that HR rep must have felt when the OP applied, seemed like a great fit, drug test was all good, extended the offer… hooray! A hire! And then, a negative hair test. All that good work, excitement, down the drain, offer rescinded on what he or she might think is a really stupid thing to disqualify based on. I know I’d feel awful if I ended up being forced to disqualify someone based on a hair test, and it would have made me really sad.

What the OP really should be doing is writing back to the HR rep, if he or she has not already burned that bridge, and say, “Thanks for letting me know. I’m disappointed, since I’m not a current drug user and the hair test only identified past use, because the position seemed like a great fit and my past would not have been relevant to the work at hand. But I understand that policies are policies, and as my hair grows out, I’d like an opportunity to reapply when another position opens up. Does my hair test disqualify me from any future employment with {agency}?”

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Min May 18, 2013 at 5:24 am

+1

Good point and great advice.

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VictoriaHR May 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm

“you must understand the way I now appear in the eyes of my family/friends/colleagues.”

You’re projecting your guilt. YOU smoked pot. YOU consumed illegal drugs. A prospective employer found out and denied you employment. The fault is yours. Please don’t blame the employer for this.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Now wait — the guilt and shame throwing here isn’t warranted. He smoked marijuana. That’s like shaming someone for reading a banned book.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I will differ on that. Unless you’ve moved out of the U.S. for your data point, it’s not illegal to read a banned book.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Right, but if you lived somewhere where the government censored books and someone shamed you for reading one, it would be just as ridiculous as shaming someone for using marijuana here in the U.S. It’s an unjust law either way, and choosing not to let the government tell you what you can and can’t do with your own brain is nothing to be ashamed of.

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fposte May 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I agree with legalizing marijuana use, but I actually am not prepared to be opposed to all examples of the government telling you what you can and can’t do with your own brain (helmet laws, for instance). But that may just be something where we differ.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I know in Europe there are laws prohibiting the selling of Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf,” but people still find ways around the laws to purchase them. They find American websites and have it shipped over – and it doesn’t get caught through customs. I do not think it is illegal to be caught reading it just as long what is in it is not preached, taught in schools (as truth), or sold again. If any European readers are around, I’d be interested in knowing the full story on its legalities.

But in this country right now, marijuana is illegal. The OP is lucky to not have been arrested (or else that would be a whole other issue with job applications), and he was smart enough to quit back when. But he did make that choice, and there are consequences. He still did break the law, even if people on here think it’s a ridiculous law. To some degree, it can be equated to the book banning, but I don’t think possessing a banned book, like the example above, will have the same consequences as possessing marijuana. But then again, we’re also comparing the US to Europe, and I hope a European reader chimes in.

And no one seems to have mentioned it, but unlike alcohol and some other drugs, marijuana can stay in your hair for a long time. That’s why they took a hair sample.

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CatB May 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Well, I live in Europe (its Eastern end, more precisely) and in my country *anything* that praises or preaches Nazism, Communism, anti-semitism a.s.o. is legally prohibited (and I tend to think it’s more or less the same throughout the EU – kinda “free speech, but with clauses”). As such, printing and selling “Mein Kampf” is illegal. The law isn’t exactly enforced (I saw the book printed once, in Romanian, by a local printing house and some media outlets went berserk, but that was all).

Still, if I’m allowed, I do not see “banned books” and “banned mind-altering substances” as equal, mainly because the immediate effects are not the same (you can’t crash a car because you read a book). That aside, I do believe also that legalising the recreational use of some drugs can have more positive effects than the present state has.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Slightly off topic from the OP, but I find it interesting that communism is also included in that list. However, seeing you say you’re from Eastern Europe, it’s not at all surprising. The country I was hinting at is in Western Europe, but it was occupied by the Nazis. My question, though, is even though those types of books are banned as far as publishing and selling, is it also illegal to be caught reading (i.e. possessing it)?

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anya May 17, 2013 at 5:46 am

I come from the same country. No, possession of books is not forbidden.

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Eric May 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm

If we’re going to shame anyone, it should be companies who think off-the-job recreational marijuana smoking is any of their business.

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Amy May 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Amen. Alcohol is more dangerous, medically, than marijuana. So if any posters shaming the OP for smoking pot have had a glass of wine, beer, champagne, etc in the past 6 months they need to hold the judgement. Yes there are circumstances in which using marijuana is irresponsible (when driving, or performing a task in which lack of concentration can put others at risk) but same with alcohol. At least weed doesn’t kill you if you take too much.

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Wilton Businessman May 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Depends on the job. I wouldn’t care if my daytime receptionist smoked at night, but sure as heck would care that my on-call engineer did.

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A Bug! May 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm

In my opinion there’s a huge difference between being on-call and being off-the-job. I wouldn’t hire someone I couldn’t trust to see the difference, and that’s completely independent of pot-smoking or no.

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Cat May 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Right, it’s not like it’s any better if your on-call engineer (or any on-call position) is in a drunken stupor. It’s about being ready when needed to do the job; not the substance is in question.

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Natalie May 16, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Eh, your on-call engineer shouldn’t be doing anything mind-altering while on call, legal or otherwise. And really, they’re not off the job while on call.

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Scott M May 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

Reminds me of a episode of the TV show “Scrubs” that came out after several airline pilots were caught drunk in the cockpit. The Dr. Cox character was berating 2 of his employees who drank while they were on-call by saying “You can’t come to work drunk! You’re doctors, not airline pilots!”

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KellyK May 17, 2013 at 11:34 am

Exactly!

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Denise May 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm

The issue is probably that they don’t know what “recreational use” means for any particular person, and they wouldn’t find out whether its a real problem until lots of time and money have been invested or a mistake has been made. So known drug use is essentially a risk. Jokes are made about potheads because such people exist. Employers will now look at Facebook and judge candidates for pictures of them in drunken stupors without giving them the chance to show their “professional side”. These various measures are just ways of filtering people out who might have habits, tendencies, whatever that could possibly negatively affect job performance. And covering their bases in the event of lawsuits. Insurance is also a factor. If they could test for even more things, for whatever they thought would guarantee the perfect, risk-free candidate, I’m sure they would.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Of course “such people exist.” So do presidents, business leaders, and other influential people who have used or continue to use marijuana and make remarkable contributions. It’s a straw man argument.

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Denise May 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Actually I don’t think it is. There are plenty of jobs where it matters, and like I said, the employer doesn’t know what “recreational use” means to any particular person or how that person is affected. This might not matter in a lot of professions, but I think the arguments suggesting that an employer never has any reason to need or want to conduct pre-employment drug screens are going too far

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Then I hope you also advocate prying into whether anyone uses alcohol, has marital problems, doesn’t get enough sleep, has a gambling problem, stays out late on work nights, etc., because they might also affect work performance.

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Denise May 17, 2013 at 2:11 am

I think I’ve been fairly clear in the point that I’ve made–that there are certain industries and occupations where the employer is reasonably concerned about drug us or a drug habit. What I “advocate” is that people accept that it’s not just about what they want to do with their bodies, there can also be serious legal repercussions for for the companies involved should a mistake be made or they be sued. The idea that “everyone is just trying to tell me what to do” is shortsighted when most companies probably truly don’t care what it is you do on your own time–they’re covering their own backside legally.

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Ask a Manager May 17, 2013 at 9:10 am

No, loads of people are drug-tested who are in positions that have nothing whatsoever to do with safety.

JustMe May 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I think the OP needs to quickly realize that life’s not fair, and that being litigious is no way to live one’s life. Based on OP’s opinion of the situation, I certainly would not want him/her working for me any more than I would want him/her accidentally tripping on my driveway. This entitlement mentality is VERY WRONG.

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Heather May 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Judging by his posts in the comments, he did realize that and has learned from this experience.

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Eric May 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

OP, you may want to consider whether you want to work for an employer that drug tests. There are ones out there that don’t.

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Anonymous May 16, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Engineering is a really, really broad field. Do we know what kind of engineer the OP is? I’m currently in a mechanical engineering program and we’ve been warned since day 1 what potential fields have a no-nonsense policy. Anyone I know who works with aircraft gets drug test at least every other month, will be instantly fired if people even suspect alcohol, etc… You just can’t take the risk with an airplane. Avoiding illegal drugs or alcohol are just one of the sacrifices you have to make, but you know that a good two years before you start looking for internships.
Software or computer engineering could probably stand lot more leniency.

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EngineerGirl May 17, 2013 at 4:20 am

Especially if you are trying to start a social network..

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Joey May 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm

What I wonder is is pot really worth significantly limiting your job opportunities? I just can’t imagine digging in on your pot stance when it can impact your income so much.

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Ask a Manager May 16, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Well, the majority of employers don’t drug test. But more importantly, if you believe strongly in individual liberty, you might feel it’s reasonable to stand by your choices.

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Joey May 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Maybe it’s a regional thing. Lots of companies in my area drug test and nearly all of the most desirable ones do.

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Denise May 16, 2013 at 10:25 pm

This has been my experience as well, even for administrative temp jobs. Not 100% necessarily, but certainly enough that you aren’t in a position to pick and choose.

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Seal May 17, 2013 at 12:21 am

I’m surprised to see that the vast majority of posts focus on the failed drug test and not on the fact that the HR person royally screwed up. The OP was told they passed the drug test and that that would be starting their new job on Monday, then told “oops, we screwed up – no job for you” the next day. While I agree that this isn’t worth suing over, the OP has EVERY right to be mad as hell at being jerked around. HR had no business making an offer if the results of the drug test were still pending; if the drug testing company screwed up HR should have made that clear when they rescinded the offer. Had this happened to me (not admitting to any recent drug use here, just making point), a polite but strongly worded letter would have been sent to the HR person and copied to the head of the company expressing my disappointment over how this was handled. At the very least, the OP deserves an apology and an explanation of why they got conflicting information about their drug test.

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JCC May 17, 2013 at 4:03 am

I’m truly surprised at how many people are coming to HR’s defense — I almost conisdered a career in HR, but… if you ever want to see the silliest fads in action, the most superstitious beliefs, the most neurotic CYA behaviors — the HR department of any large company is really ground zero.

I read a comment recently where a fellow claimed that he had seen a job listing that required a year more experience with a software package than it had been in existence (“Just to be safe”, I imagine), and everyone seems to have at least one story about an HR person who tries to hire for a technical position by relying on industry buzzwords. (Don’t they do old-fashioned Job Analysis anymore?)

On this very blog, there was a long comment exchange where Ms. Green did her best to explain to a fellow in charge of hiring why it was a bad idea to reject applicants for not filling in the optional sections of an application form that duplicated information already contained in the resume they sent along with the application — he thought it showed that they didn’t want the job badly enough.

Sure, hate the game, not the player, but sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself if sympathy is the right response. Just because the applicant is self-righteous and lawsuit-happy, doesn’t make the HR person any less of a petty bureaucrat, after all.

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Victoria May 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

Agree with the advice- just move on, and shave your head until you have completely new hair :) It is rediculous the # of corporations that drug test… In high school this happened to me when applying for a job at Target… The HR lady called and told MY MOM that I wasn’t offered the position because of the results of my drug test… I chuckle about it now… But man I was mad at that lady. I now work for a nonprofit arts organization where people leave events (driving), completely intoxicated. How is this better than going home in the evening and smoking a little pot?

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Lissajous May 18, 2013 at 6:52 am

Weighing in on the “why do they drug test anyway?” thing – I wasn’t at all surprised, because OP said they were an engineer. This depends on what kind of engineer you are, of course (less applicable to, say, software/IT types), but anyone who’s going to be going on a mine/construction site? Oh yes. All the big minesites I know will do a breatho test daily at the pre-start meetings, requirement 0.00, and the nice ones will give you a second chance if you blow numbers. (You will not be working that day, of course). Even the ones who don’t do it daily will do it randomly, and they all do random drug testing. Nearly all of them require a drug screen as part of your pre going on site medical too. All that heavy machinery and rocks flying and very big trucks that cannot see you and would squash your 4wd like an ant – having anyone under the influence of anything around is a bad idea.

*This is mine sites in Australia, where there will be a wet mess if it’s remote, or if there isn’t because everything is still just starting up, you let people know so they can bring cartons in. I’ve heard of some US companies trying to run dry sites over here, and it really doesn’t fly very well. We may not be in the massive construction/expansion phase of the boom anymore, but there’s still enough work around that tradies will just laugh at the idea of a dry site, and go somewhere that trusts them have a drink to unwind at the end of the day without going overboard. There aren’t many niceties on a mine site, the small things go a long way. (It’s amazing how many favours you can trade for if you’ve thought to bring a stash of chocolate. Beer they can get, but produce chocolate biscuits at around morning smoko time and magic happens. And then our geotech brought his coffee machine up, as well as a good stash of Barossa Valley red wines *g*)
**Usually a site will have a breatho in the camp, so if you’re not sure if you’re going to blow numbers, you can check before you get to the plant. If you are over, you tell your supervisor before they leave that you won’t be able to work that day, and it doesn’t go on the record. Obviously this isn’t to be abused and doing it too often well get you fired, but the idea is not to punish someone who’s thinking about safety – you may have drunk too much the night before, but you have at least been responsible enough to check, own up, and not put yourself in a position where you may harm yourself or others.
***All the drugs screens I’ve heard of being done over here are urine only though. Hair’s a new level to me.
****Poppy seeds will present as opiates on high-level, first-pass screens. The abattoir I did my vacation work at dealt with this by removing any employee who tested positive at the on-site test from work immediately, and if the more detailed lab screen that the sample was then sent to showed that it was only poppy seeds on the bread they’d had for lunch, the employee would be brought back in with no loss of pay for the days not worked.

Wow. Long comment is long. Oops =)

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evelyn September 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

How long can job agency hold a drug test .
I was sent to job by a agency. the agency as me to take a drug test a I do . work with the company for one week. I take drug test a failed. that was year 1/2 go . I move to a new state a recently apply for job not knowing I was applying to the same agency. He would like to know what can I tell him about that.

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fred October 21, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Relax man. Smoke a bowl. You’ll laugh about this.

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Nancy October 23, 2013 at 11:33 am

You will soon realize that marijuana smokers have lost many of their CIVIL RIGHTS in America because they smoke a harmless herb.

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Robert Platt Bell November 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

I might suggest getting a haircut.

No, seriously. Hair takes months to grow, and since you stopped smoking pot only a few months ago, the hair still had traces of it, even if your urine test was clean.

Cutting off your hair (cutting it short) would mean that they could only test new hair, and you will be more likely to pass the test.

I thought your quote was interesting – you accepted that they had a right not to hire you, but were outraged about the embarrassment involved and wanted to sue.

Typical victim mentality.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, LEARN from this experience.

I was in your shoes many years ago. Trying to get an Engineering degree while smoking pot was like stepping on the gas and brakes at the same time. When I stopped smoking pot, well, I took off like a rocket.

Thermodynamics, Calculus, Number Theory, Computer programming, Electromagnetics – these are not subjects you can study while stoned. Maybe some “gut” major like psychology or sociology or anthropology or “communications” (the classic stoner major). But not Engineering.

And you will have to expect that an Engineering company isn’t interested in hiring stoners – not when there is precision work to be done – and security clearances involved, in some cases.

And no, they are not interested in hiring drunks either – if a background check shows a DUI, that could spike your hiring, too.

Yea, it is “unfair” and all that. The world is an unfair place. Grow up.

It is still a nice world, and no, you don’t “need” pot to survive in it. In fact, not being stoned all the time really enhances life.

A lot of my friends and family members still smoke pot. I am not against that. That is their thing. But their lives, while not in ruin, are not happy lives. And often, then end up being a burden to others, financially.

I also know, being a former stoner, that you can’t tell a stoner anything. It is like a religion to them, and unless they have a conversion on their own, they never will figure it out.

http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2012/07/you-cant-save-people-from-themselves.html

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Chuck November 20, 2013 at 1:02 am

I agree with the applicant/intern. She should sue. She has the proof she passed the test. The email from the employer is an implied contract in many states. It may not cost her dime if she does her research. Hopefully she’s employed by now and CAN dedicate some time to some restitution. The only way employers and their insurers are going to wake up is to make these ‘mistakes’ public. The point that drug tests look for past use and not intoxication is a valid one and in a country where there are 1 job for several dozen people to compete for, I doubt this employer may have any sympathetic ears in a lawsuit.

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Spinach Pie December 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I remember my first beer.

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Tony March 31, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I went to a job interview for Home Depot which was a 30 minute drive from my house and it was only for part-time at $9 per hour. I went there 2 times and did 2 separate interviews and the second time they said I was hired and then gave me a drug test form to which I replied…’Where is the closest facility’ I’ll go there right now. The guy handed me a piece of paper with directions on it and off I went. I got to the facility around 3:30pm and there was a note on the door that said they had closed at 1pm that day. I also saw that the regular hours for drug screening was between 8-9am – 3pm, so even if they had been open when I first went there I wouldn’t have been able to do the drug test anyway. The next day I had to take my car to the mechanic shop to get a new serpentine belt and new Pully and the job took all day. So the next day I went and did the drug test and then it was the weekend and the following Monday was a holiday so on Tuesday I called Home Depot to ask about the work schedule and I told them about the drug test situation. They said “Oh, you didn’t take that test within 24hrs’? I said no because I wasn’t told I had to take it within 24hrs. They told me they couldn’t hire me and of course the person who interviewed me LIED thru his teeth, saying he did tell me…yeah right!! He had no reason to tell me because I told him I was going to the place as soon as I left the interview, so why would he tell me it had to be done within 24hrs. Yet College educated people like me are the ones who can’t get any good jobs.

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