Iowa Court of Appeals Files Opinion Related to Employment Drug Testing

The case involves termination of employment, random workplace drug testing policies and Iowa's drug testing laws.

In Scott Hampe v. Charles Gabus Motors Inc., workplace policies required employees to submit to random drug tests as requested by the employer, Gabus. Gabus contacted its vendor for a randomized employee list as well as a list of "alternates." The plaintiff (Hampe) was listed as an alternate; however, not enough primarily selected individuals were at work or available on the day of the test so Hampe was included in the testing process that day.

Hampe's original sample was discarded by the medical review officer (MRO) because it was out of the appropriate temperature range. He was asked to wait and provide a second specimen but was unable to produce a second sample. Hampe returned to the waiting room to drink water and wait until he could produce a sufficient sample but left prior to providing the specimen, citing he needed to return home to care for a sick child. Gabus did advise Hampe that if he left, it would constitute a refusal and he would be terminated.

Ultimately, Hampe was terminated and subsequently filed suit. Initially, Hampe's claims were dismissed. On appeal, the court determined that further proceedings were warranted and additional deliberation was required regarding the following:

    • Random Testing Pool: Gabus' randomized lists were based off a pool of all employees and did not take into account whether an individual would be onsite the day the testing was to be performed. The plaintiff argued that this was out of compliance with the Iowa law as those selected for the test date may not be onsite. Gabus countered that the alternate list mitigated this issue and rendered them compliant.

    • Supervisor Training Requirements: Hampe claimed that only one supervisor was involved in the process and that this individual was not trained regarding randomized drug testing. Iowa's law requires both initial training and annual supervisor training.

  • Uniform Disciplinary Policy: Gabus's policy allowed for a variety of potential disciplinary actions in response to a violation. The court held that "the [Iowa] statute requires uniform requirements for what actions the employer 'shall' take." The plaintiff claimed that other employees were treated differently and more favorably.

Iowa employers are encouraged to review Iowa Code Section 730.5 to ensure that drug and alcohol testing policies comply with the stated requirements of the law.

Posted: January 30, 2024

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