Fired Drug Test

Got Fired For Failing Drug Test, How Do I Explain?


Dear J.T. & Dale: I just got fired for failing a drug test. I need to immediately update my resume and start job searching. How would I handle this on my resume and at interviews? - Fred

Fired for failing drug test?

DALE: As for handling it on your resume, you don’t. Some people put “reason for leaving” after each job, but this is unnecessary clutter; just list your last job and put this month as your end date.

J.T.: Next, confirm with your former employer what will be said when references call about you. If they are going to say that you tested positive for drugs, then tell prospective employers, before any reference checking: “I am ashamed to say I was let go for failing a drug test. I am so upset about it – you cannot imagine. But I want to take full accountability for my actions. My goal now is to find a new employer who is willing to give me a shot and let me prove to them that hiring me was the best decision they ever made.” The honesty and accountability are vital.

DALE: Yes, but if the drug was marijuana, somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent of Americans admit to having tried/used it, so your experience isn’t exactly shocking news. What’s more shocking is that you used despite knowing the company did drug testing. That adds a note of irresponsibility that will be worrisome to employers. You need to line up former managers as references, ones who will give a glowing account of your work ethic.

J.T.: Another possibility is that your former employer is not going to say you failed a drug test. I still would argue that you should go the honesty route. “When you contact my reference, they won’t tell you the reason for my leaving, but I will. I want you to know so you don’t have to wonder.” Again, this added honesty on the front end shows your character and accountability.

Lying is only going to come back to you; even if you get hired, the moment they find out why you really left your last job (and trust me, they will), they’ll feel betrayed. On the other hand, show employers that you are willing to take responsibility and to learn, and they will see past your mistake to your potential.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.


  1. Lie. In my own experience you not be hired If you admit the truth no matter what this article says. In my case I was tested after I turned in a meth pipe I found while doing maintenance work. I failed for off the job marijuana use which is legal in my state (Washington). I was told “Thanks for doing the right thing but we are terminating you’. I am a trained maintenance mechanic, my skills are in high demand so I have been to a lot of interviews since I was fired, I was raised to tell the truth, to put principal above expediency. In my interviews I can show shinning evaluations, including from the place I was fired, solid references, no tickets or accidents ever, and a credit rating in the 830’s. When ask why I left my last job I tell them the truth- I never hear back, ever, including from temp agencies. Most interviewers tell me they really appreciate my honesty, and I believe they do as individuals. But you have to remember you are not dealing with individuals, you are dealing with the representatives of an organization. Do most of these organizations lie to their employees on occasion? I’ll leave you to your own experience to answer that and if you should be honest with them. So, as far as being honest, at least for me, means being a fool. Still out of work, still telling the truth..

  2. As far as I know, you can not be fired for legitimate doctor prescribed medication. I have always been very very clear to the employer and the testing lab (both verbally and in writing) on the lab paperwork that I take certain medication for my asthma that can show as “speed” I have never had a problem passing and only once did HR ask for verification from my physician.

    If it’s illegal (no matter what the research says or societal attitudes) don’t do it while employed by any organization that tells you they conduct random drug tests. That way you are always good to go.

    It may not be fair or logical – but whoever told you life was fair or employers logical was lying to you. Sorry…

  3. Interesting that you both went straight to assuming that not only was the test accurate, but that the drugs it detected were illegal. Since neither is remotely statistically demonstrable, that’s a somewhat large gap. And it isn’t that I’m some kind of weird conspiracy theorist; anyone who can do the math will tell you that drug tests are so unreliable that using them in hiring and firing decisions is completely unjustified. Incidentally, urine tests are the least accurate of all the possible methods. Furthermore, if you get a false positive once the chances are almost 100% that a retest will produce the same false positive (body chemistry remains pretty much the same).

    If the test picked up on a legal substance like your sesame seed bagel (and yes, they do; it isn’t an urban legend; check Snopes) simply tell prospective employers what it was. Otherwise, going the “I’m so ashamed” route gets you nowhere. Just tell the truth. But don’t say “I failed a drug test”; say “My drug test was positive for…..” which creates a niggling doubt about its accuracy.

    Personally, for me, I consider drug tests an immediate disqualifier of an employer. I’ve never worked for a company – huge or tiny – that required them. And I won’t.

  4. The traditional business suit is a uniform, of sorts, not unlike the military, when you join the corporate world, you’re now part of a system, and that system kicks people out that do not conform to various criteria and stipulations, and you suddenly find yourself subordinate to an apparatus of bureaucrats and regulations, again, not unlike the military, to whose guidance you will adhere else face dire consequences, such as unemployment. One of those guidances concerns personal use of various pharmaceuticals, natural, legal, or otherwise. One of these, marijuana, is currently under debate to be made legal, to basically start tearing several pages directly out of the lawbooks, and feed them through the shredder, at least where marijuana is concerned. Larger topic? The War On Drugs. What’s the Big Fuss? Well, not only image, but there are actually some bona-fide safety issues to be taken into consideration. Being on the job, in charge of heavy machinery, or delicate details, these require concentration, which is why some people take Adderall, for that stimulating ADD treatment. Other people take tranquilizers and similar medications, to come down off a full day’s job stress related to various concentration and other performance requirements. Modern life in a fast-paced job, can take it out of you, put you through the wringer. What kind of stuff can you legally take into your body, to help take the edge off? Is ‘pot’, as one example, really as harmful as some people might like to claim it is? Or, or, are we starting to come to the point in the world where centralized, bureaucratic authorities are going to start to lose some of that authority and capacity to control and otherwise micromanage their employees’ lives, including their urine content? Healthy slave’s a happy slave, and well-rewarded, too!

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