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A Pennsylvania court rules employees’ drug tests are not confidential

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A nurse whoworked at a Pennsylvania hospital was fired because of a failed drug test. After being notified of the firing, the states Board of Nursing wanted to investigate and subpoenaed the hospital for the drug test results. The hospital, stating confidentiality, refused. The Board sued. Was this information confidential? Are outsiders entitled to see these results?

According to the Pennsylvania courts, the answer is yes. As reported by the Legal Intelligencer, a three-judge panel found the states Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act which bars disclosure of patients substance abuse and addiction treatment records to third parties does not apply to employee drug and alcohol test results.

The ruling directly contradicts a 1999 federal ruling protecting the confidentiality of patient information. Pennsylvanias court makes a differentiation between a patient under care and an employee taking a drug test. In the case of the hospital, the court found that the employee was not under medical care and was not a patient in a drug counselling program so theres no protection of confidential medical information.

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Accordingly, consistent with the common and accepted meaning of the term patient we conclude that the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act affords conditional confidentiality only to a patient who provided a specimen for purposes of drug or alcohol treatment and not to an employee who did so for employment purposes, said Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, according to the Legal Intelligencer account.

The case could have implications nationwide. If youre running a business in Pennsylvania, youre now allowed to request drug testing information about prospective or even current employees from their former employer. Dont be surprised if employers in other states try to take advantage of this precedent too.



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