SW Legal studies in Business

Employee Who Flunks Drug Test Can Be Fired Even if Procedure Not Completely Proper

Iowa high court held that an employer failed to fulfill all procedural requirements for an employee who failed a drug test. However, the drug test was properly administered, so the employee could be fired and was due no damages. His attorney fees would be paid by the employer.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Drug Test; Drug Policy; State Law

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Sims worked for NCI in a safety sensitive position involving making and moving steel. When he was hired, he was given a copy of the company’s employee manual that contained NCI’s drug policy. It noted that random drug tests would be given and that penalties for failure could mean immediate termination. Some months later, he was given a drug test that was run by a professional firm in accord with Iowa law. Sims tested positive for meth. When told of the result, Sims claimed it must have been due to a visit to a dentist the day before. That opinion was given no credence. Sims was told he could pay for a second test, but he declined. He was fired and sued NCI for violating Iowa law concerning drug tests. The company failed to notify him of the matter in writing by certified mail. NCI then sent Sims’ attorney a certified letter about the matter and confirmed that he could pay for a second drug test. Sims did and failed the test. Sims contended that the delay in sending the notice by mail violated Iowa law regarding drug tests, so he was due back pay, punitive damages, and attorney fees. The trial court awarded Sims attorney fees. Both parties appealed.


Affirmed. The oral notice given by NCI to Sims following his drug test failed to comply with the Iowa law requiring notice. However, Sim is not entitled to back pay, punitive damages or reinstatement. He failed a properly administered drug test. Because the employer did not comply properly with the notice requirements, the award of attorney fees and court costs is reasonable.

Citation Sims v. NCI Holding Corp., 759 N.W.2d 333 (Sup. Ct., Iowa, 2009)

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