Can an Employer Not Hire You for Taking Prescription Medication?

Taking prescription medication can seperate you from other applicants in a bad way.
i Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

There are many reasons an employer may not hire you, including being under-qualified, having a criminal record or wearing white after Labor Day. Now you can add taking prescribed medications to the list of factors that may prevent you from getting a job. This isn’t a random attempt by companies to keep chemically induced happy women out of the workplace. Employers actually have legitimate reasons for not hiring individuals on medication. Although it may sound unfair, an employer can turn you away for following doctor’s orders.

Reasons for Testing

    Employers are not looking for ways to reject you, they are looking for ways to protect themselves. Some jobs such as manufacturing are governed by OSHA guidelines that prohibit drug use. If a company inadvertently hires a prescription drug user who later harms another worker, the company could be in for a major lawsuit. It’s better to circumvent that early in the process by weeding out the drug users. Another reason companies drug test applicants is that by performing random drug testing on applicants, they qualify for discounts on worker's compensation fees.

Safety Issues

    You may be thinking that the prescription you take daily for runner’s knee or back pain shouldn’t prevent you from being hired. The argument that some companies have against that line of thinking is that the pain medication you are taking could cause you to make a judgment error that could harm you or others. Workplace drug and alcohol use cost companies around 80 billion annually. Federal research shows that employees using drugs are more likely to be a part of a workplace accident and to file a worker’s compensation claim.

Refusing to Comply with Drug Testing

    You have the right to refuse a drug test. It is not against any law to do so, but the company more than likely will not hire you because of it. State laws do put some guidelines around drug testing but most of them pertain to current employees and not prospective applicants. Some guidelines directing how drug tests are administered do help applicants. If, for instance, someone requests that you remove your clothing or perform the urine test in front of them, then this can be construed as an invasion of privacy. In cases like this you may have the right to walk away from the test.


    If you are on prescription medication it may be best to let a prospective employer know upfront. It may be that the drug test is not even screening for the class of medications you are on. The position you are applying for will more than likely shape the scope of drugs they are screening for. Your back medication may not be a factor for an IT job but could be problematic for a manufacturing job. If you are taking medication because of a disability, you may be able to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect yourself if you are denied employment based on the results of your drug test. Companies cannot single out certain groups for drug testing because that is considered discrimination.

the nest