It’s been a little while since I’ve discussed quirky statutes that are often overlooked or misunderstood when talking about employment laws in Connecticut. Certainly, the drug testing laws in Connecticut may not be overlooked, but portions of it are often misunderstood.

Indeed, I suspect that many employers (and lawyers) are unaware that an "employee" as defined in the drug testing laws might include people who are not current employees of the company. This has important implications about who and under what circumstances an employer can test individuals for drugs.  Let me explain:

One of the lessons I can vividly recall from law school is the admonition of a law professor to always look at the definitions of words in particular laws. The cautionary tale that he told was that just because you think a word has a simple definition doesn’t mean the legislature has conferred the same commonly understood definition.

The drug testing statute is a perfect example of this. 

In Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51t(1), an employee is defined  as "any individual currently employed or formerly employed and currently being rehired by the same employer within twelve months of terminating his employment, and includes any individual in a managerial position".  (Compare this with the definition of "employee" for purposes of paying wages.) This means that persons protected under the statute from certain types of screening may also include some types of former employees as well.

Connecticut rules provide employers with flexibility to drug screen job applicants, but prohibit various forms of testing on current employees (with notable exceptions for certain positions or if the employer has a "reasonable suspicion" of drug use).  The effect of this statute, therefore, is that employers who rehire people who worked for the company in the last year cannot typically test them for drugs — even though they might use that same procedure on other job applicants. 

Employers who would like to implement and administer a drug testing program in Connecticut need to remain vigilant to these types of quirks and ensure that their policy and procedures are aligned with how the drug testing laws in Connecticut are set up.