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Wrongful Discharge Grounds Exist for Employee Discharged After Improperly Given Drug Test
Description At-will employee failed urine drug test that was processed by drug lab not on state list of approved labs. Appeals court held that wrongful discharge action existed since procedure used by employer violated state statute concerning proper procedure for drug testing.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Drug Testing, Public Policy, Wrongful Discharge
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Garner, a carpenter, was an at-will employee of Rentenbach. After working for a year, the company adopted a substance abuse policy. Garner tested positive and was fired. Garner sued, claiming the drug test procedure violated the state law that set testing requirements. The lab used by defendant was not on the list of approved labs issued by the state. "The dispositive issue is whether the termination of an at-will employee based on a positive reading of a drug test conducted pursuant to the employer's drug testing policy can constitute a wrongful discharge when the drug test was not performed consistent with a state statute." Trial court granted summary judgment for employer.
Decision Reversed. The statute sets forth the procedures required of employers who choose to conduct drug screening on their employees. That is a part of state public policy. Hence, the discharge of an at-will employee as a result of a positive reading of a urine drug test, that was given as condition of employment, is a violation of public policy when the test given is inconsistent with a specific statute. There is a cause of action for wrongful discharge even though Garner was an at-will employee.
Citation Garner v. Rentenbach Constructors Inc., 501 S.E.2d 83 (Ct. App., N.C.)

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