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Minnesota Drug Testing Law Does Not Apply to Employees Working Outside Minnesota

A federal court in Minnesota has ruled that Minnesota’s Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA), Minn. Stat. Sections 950-957, does not apply to employees who work or are applying to work outside the state of Minnesota.  Olson v. Push, Inc., No. 14-1163 (ADM/JJK) (D. Minn. Aug. 19, 2014).  In Olson, the plaintiff resided in Minnesota and accepted an offer of employment in West Virginia from Push, a Wisconsin-based company.  Push originally asked Olson to submit to drug testing at a clinic in Wisconsin.  For convenience purposes, however, it allowed him to be tested in Minnesota. Push determined that the drug test result was “too diluted” and terminated his employment.  Under DATWA, Olson would have had the right to a confirmatory test, and possibly treatment, before termination, as well as many other protections, so he brought a lawsuit challenging the termination of his employment.  Push argued that DATWA did not apply and moved to dismiss the complaint.

Olson pointed to the language of the statute, which defines “employee” as “a person . . . who performs services for compensation, in whatever form, for an employer.”  ”Employer,” in turn, is defined as “as a person or entity located or doing business in this state and having one or more employees[.]“  Although Push conceded it did business in Minnesota, it argued that, in the absence of extra-territorial language, DATWA must be interpreted as governing only in-state activity.  The court agreed, noting the general presumption against the extra-territorial application of a state’s statutes, as well as the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It held that it would be “unreasonable to construe the phrase ‘doing business in’ as a broad, stand-alone qualification that applies to any employer who conducts any amount of business in Minnesota, regardless of where the employment is taking place.”  Finally, the court noted that “although Olson’s interpretation of the definition of ‘employer’ might appear facially sound, it invites absurd or unjust results when DATWA’s requirements are viewed as a whole.”

The decision is a rare bit of good news for employers who might be facing lawsuits under this strict Minnesota statute.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017

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John Ella, Jackson Lewis, employment contracts attorney, trade secret lawyer, drug testing legal counsel, compete litigation law
Principal

V. John Ella is a Principal in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He practices in all aspects of employment law and advises clients in the areas of employment contracts, handbooks, trade secret and non-compete litigation, drug testing law, privacy law, commission claims, defamation, sexual harassment claims, employment and housing discrimination, plant closings, ERISA benefits litigation, public accommodations under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, wage and hour compliance, whistleblower and Sarbanes-Oxley claims, as well...

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Kathryn J. Russo, Disability Lawsuits Attorney, Jackson Lewis, Alcohol Testing Lawyer
Principal

Kathryn J. Russo is a Principal in the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is a firm resource on the legal issues implicated in workplace drug and alcohol testing arising under federal, state and local laws.

Ms. Russo assists clients with workplace problems involving drugs and alcohol, and gives advice about compliance with all pertinent drug and alcohol testing laws. She prepares substance abuse policies to comply with all federal drug and alcohol testing regulations (including all agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation), as well as the drug and alcohol testing laws of all 50 states. In addition, she defends employers in litigation where drug and alcohol test results are at issue, and frequently conducts “reasonable suspicion” training for employers in connection with their substance abuse policies. Ms. Russo also counsels employers on leave and disability management issues arising when employees seek leave for substance abuse rehabilitation.

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