If You Fail Your Employer’s Drug Test, These Excuses Won’t Work

For many jobs, prospective employees have to take a drug test in order to be hired. If you take such a test and fail, you’re probably feeling frustrated and may want to appeal the result. However, according to one drug screening vendor, there are a couple reasons why challenging the result won’t likely help your cause.


When someone tests positive for marijuana, one of the most common excuses is that the drug entered their bloodstream through second-hand smoke. While it’s true that marijuana smoke can affect the blood content of anyone in the vicinity of the smoker, the effect is not great enough to significantly alter test results. This is due to a standard practice in drug testing facilities known as cutoff levels.

Cutoff levels give a certain amount of leeway to individuals taking a drug test—allowing for the presence of a baseline amount of a drug originating from outside factors, without yielding a positive test result. The cutoff level for marijuana is 50 nanograms. To achieve this reading on a drug test through second-hand smoke, an individual would have to be locked in a phone booth with a marijuana smoker for hours on end.


Perhaps you saw the episode of the hit TV series Seinfeld, in which Elaine tests positive for opium after eating a poppy seed muffin. Could this happen to you? While poppy seeds fall under the category of opiates, such a result is not possible under current testing standards.

In 1996, when the episode aired, the opiate cutoff level was 300 nanograms. However, in 1998—to account for the ingestion of poppy seeds and other perfectly legal foods—this cutoff was increased to 2,000 nanograms. Therefore, as long as a drug testing facility is abiding by current federal cutoff standards, receiving a positive opium test from poppy seeds would be virtually impossible. An individual would need to eat poppy seed-based foods almost exclusively.

The above excuses are unlikely to help you if fail a drug test. However, there are other circumstances under which you may have legal recourse if you encounter problems during an employee drug test. It’s worth consulting with an experienced employment law attorney for a case evaluation.