Rhode Island Drug Testing Laws 2024

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Rhode Island Drug Testing Laws 2024

Rhode Island drug testing regulations are contained in the state’s Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act (RISWDATA). The Act does not require or encourage employers to conduct drug testing but permits them to do so if desired. However, any drug testing procedure established by employers in the state must be governed by the provisions of the RISWDATA. Drug testing required or conducted under federal laws in the state is exempt from the provisions of the Act. Pursuant to the RISWDATA, employers may conduct drug testing for applicants and employees only in specific circumstances, such as following reasonable suspicion and in post-accident cases.

The RISWDATA does not allow any employer to require an applicant or employee to undergo drug testing until the employer has adopted and delivered a written policy outlining the specifics of its drug testing program to the applicant or employee. The policy may include information such as:

  • A statement of the employer's drug testing policy respecting drug use by employees
  • Which applicants and employees may be tested
  • Circumstances under which drug tests may be requested
  • Substances that may be tested
  • Planned testing methods and collection procedures
  • Consequences of refusing drug testing
  • Potential adverse action which may be taken if drug tests return positive
  • The rights of an employee or applicant to explain, in confidence, the test results
  • The rights of an employee or applicant to obtain all information related to that individual's testing
  • Confidentiality requirements
  • The available appeal procedures, remedies, and sanctions

Following a positive drug test result, employers may not be terminated immediately but must be allowed to undergo a drug treatment program with a substance abuse professional. An employer must also provide an employee who has failed a drug test a reasonable opportunity to rebut or explain the result. An employer may require such an employee to undergo drug testing without prior notice for a period of up to 2 years commencing with the employee's return to work following participation in a drug treatment program.

Per RISWDATA regulations, an employer must pay all costs of testing for drugs required by the employer, including confirmation tests and the transportation cost if the testing of a current employee is carried out at a location other than the workplace. If an individual requests a retest of a sample to challenge the results of a positive test, the employer must pay all retest costs. Drug testing may only be conducted in testing facilities with SAMHSA or CAP certifications.

Employers are required to maintain confidentiality of testing results and records. Any individual aggrieved by a willful violation of the RISWDATA may institute a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction within 2 years of the individual's discovery of the alleged violation or the exhaustion of internal administrative remedies. Any person who violates the provisions of the RISWDATA is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000, imprisonment for up to 1 year, or both.

What Kinds of Drug Tests Can Employers Conduct in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act (RISWDATA) allows public and private employees to conduct tests in various scenarios, such as pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, and post-accident tests. Employers may test for controlled substances, including cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, marijuana, phencyclidine, and their metabolites. According to the RISWDATA, body component samples appropriate for drug testing include saliva, urine, and hair.

Can Employers Do Random Drug Testing in Rhode Island?

A public or private employer may not request employees to undergo random drug tests, except that the employer may adopt a policy and enter into an agreement with their employees to require random testing only of employees who:

  • Are authorized to carry firearms
  • Are peace or police officers
  • Have drug interdiction responsibilities
  • Are engaged in activities directly affecting the safety of others
  • Work in direct contact with inmates in the custody of the Department of Corrections or juvenile delinquents or children requiring supervision in the custody of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families

Employers may adopt a random drug test policy that complies with state drug testing laws and may implement the drug testing policy only after approval of the policy by the collective bargaining unit representing the affected employees.

What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test in Rhode Island for a Job?

Per Section 28-6.5.1-12 of the Rhode Island Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act, no disciplinary action, other than a temporary suspension or transfer to another position, may be taken against an employee as a result of a positive drug test result unless the result has been verified by a second test using a scientifically accepted method by the state.

Employees who fail a drug test may not be terminated based on the result but must be referred to a SAP (substance abuse professional) for assistance. Additional testing may be required by the employer and an employee whose testing indicates a continued use of controlled substances or narcotics despite treatment may be terminated.

Can I Be Fired for Refusing a Drug Test in Rhode Island?

An employee may be discharged for refusing to undergo drug testing conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Rhode Island Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act. Such an employee may also be considered to be discharged for misconduct for purposes of unemployment compensation benefits.

Can You Get Fired for Failing a Drug Test with a Medical Card in Rhode Island?

Employers are not allowed to terminate or take disciplinary actions against an employee who is a medical marijuana cardholder based solely on the employee’s private, legal use of cannabis outside of the workplace except in instances where the employer can prove the employee is working or under the influence of marijuana. Since a positive cannabis test result does not prove impairment, an employer must show other observed signs of impairment if it takes action against an employee it believes to be impaired while working.

Note that these protections do not apply if:

  • The employer is a federal contractor or subject to federal regulations such that failure to take such action would result in the employer losing a monetary or licensing-related benefit
  • The employer and the labor union representing the employees have negotiated a collective bargaining agreement prohibiting off-duty cannabis use
  • The employee works in a job position considered dangerous, hazardous, or essential to public welfare and safety

Can Employers Conduct Drug Tests on Applicants in Rhode Island?

Per Section 28-6.5.1-4 of the RISWDATA, a public or private employer may request a job applicant, upon a conditional employment offer, to undergo drug testing. The employer may use a refusal to take a drug test or a confirmed positive drug test result as a basis for refusal to hire, as long as such testing does not violate the provisions available under the Americans with Disabilities Act and provided the test is required for all applicants who have received a conditional employment offer for a particular employment classification.

Is Pre-Employment Drug Testing Allowed in Rhode Island?

An employer may request a job applicant to submit to a pre-employment drug test of their urine, blood, or another bodily fluid or tissue if:

  • The applicant has an employment offer conditioned on a negative test result
  • The applicant provides the drug test sample in private
  • Positive tests are verified by a federally certified laboratory by means of mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, or an analysis method recognized as being scientifically accurate
  • The authorized drug testing does not extend to applicants for positions with an agency or political subdivision of the state except for applicants seeking employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, correctional officer, or any other position where testing is required by federal regulation or for the continued receipt of federal funds

Does Rhode Island Allow Public Agencies to Submit Employees to Workplace Drug Tests?

The Rhode Island Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act applies to public and private employers. Hence, public agencies are allowed to require drug testing of employees. Except where expressly stated, the protections available under the Act apply to state, local, and private employees and employers.

Can Employers Choose to Create Drug-Free Workplace Policies?

Rhode Island law allows employers to establish and enforce a drug-free workplace policy banning employees from possessing or using cannabis in the workplace and from working (including remote work) while under the influence of cannabis. The law also does not mandate employers to accommodate the medical use of cannabis in a workplace environment.

Employees Exempted From Rhode Island Workplace Drug Testing Laws

Any drug or alcohol testing required by and conducted pursuant to federal law or regulation is exempt from the provisions of the Rhode Island Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act and the rules promulgated under the Act. Such testing includes drug screenings for drivers operating commercial vehicles and those required for employees protected under collective bargaining agreements.

What are the Requirements for Drug Testing Labs in Rhode Island?

Per Sections 28-6.5.1-7 and 28-6.5.1-8 of the Rhode Island Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act, drug testing laboratories doing urine analysis for initial or confirmation tests must be certified for forensic urine drug testing pursuant to the regulations of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or be approved by the College of American Pathologists or another organization recognized by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Drug testing labs must also be licensed by the state to perform drug tests.

Any drug testing facility providing laboratory services to an employer to test for drug use that is not licensed by the State Department of Health is subject to an administrative fine of up to $500 for each offense. Each test performed by the unlicensed drug testing facility will be considered to constitute a separate offense.

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