Labor Secretary Suggests Employers May Want to Rethink Drug Testing

April 20, 2018

In the face of tight labor markets, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said employers should rethink the practice of drug testing every job applicant, which he believes could keep qualified people out of the workforce.  In response to a question from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Secretary Acosta said that although "there are sometimes very valid health and safety reasons why an individual that cannot pass a drug test shouldn't hold a certain job," some employers "are not well informed about an individual's skills and make the assumption that because there's a negative result on a test they would not be a good employee or they would impose a risk."  The Secretary's remarks appear to reflect a softening of views within the Trump administration on marijuana, and President Trump has reportedly told Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) he would support efforts to protect states that have legalized the drug.  Meanwhile, any employer seeking to relax drug testing requirements will need to ensure compliance with various federal, state and local drug-free workplace laws.  Separately, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said this week that he will soon introduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.