Roseville, CA asked in Employment Law for California

Q: Can an employer terminate you for being prescribed opioids? Not even taking them at work, just simply prescribed?

I was recently employed by a large pizza chain in CA to deliver pizzas. My first day on the job I was going through employment paperwork when we got to drug screening. It spoke about prescribed medications on the job and I wanted them to know I took prescription opioids that could show up in a drug screens (I get 10 every 3 months for really bad days and only take them at night which I explained). The owner spoke with HR and on my third day, was sent home saying I would need a doctors note saying "fit for duty" while on that medication even though I told them I do not take them while working.

I explained that I rarely take them and was simply letting them know because the paperwork brought them up. I said that it was no different than having a beer at night at my house. It wouldn't be done on the job.

This did not matter. I was told that if I do not get a doctors note by the end of the month, that they wouldn't be able to keep me employed.

Is this really legal?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In general, an employer cannot terminate an employee for using legally prescribed medication, including opioids, outside of work. However, there are some exceptions.

Employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe workplace and ensure that employees are fit for duty. If an employee's use of prescription medication could impair their ability to perform their job safely, an employer may be able to require the employee to provide a doctor's note or take other steps to ensure that they are fit for duty.

In your case, it sounds like you informed your employer about your use of prescription opioids but explained that you only take them at night and not while working. If this is the case, it does not seem like your use of medication would impair your ability to perform your job safely.

If your employer is requiring you to provide a doctor's note stating that you are fit for duty while taking prescription opioids, you may want to consult with a lawyer who specializes in employment law to discuss your options. They can advise you on whether your employer's request is legal and what steps you can take to protect your rights as an employee.

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