Does a Background Check Include a Drug Test?

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hand in gloves holding urine test

A background check is an easy way for an employer to verify an applicant’s information and history. It verifies identity and shows criminal records at state and federal levels, credit history, and other information. These are valuable for vetting potential candidates and helping employers find the right person for the job.

Drug tests are also involved when applying for certain jobs. While they are often a part of the hiring process of numerous companies and government organizations, they are separate from background checks. Nonetheless, it can have a significant impact on the employer’s evaluation, like criminal history records. 

Knowing the importance of it, many wonder if a background check includes a drug test. In this article, we’ll cover what shows up on a typical background check and whether or not past drug tests go on your record.

What Does a Background Check Show?

The depth of background checks varies depending on various factors. Some are more exhaustive than others. For example, a typical background check doesn’t include the individual’s driving records or credit history. But when relevant to the position, you’ll often see these. The following is a quick summary of what most background checks include.

  • Identity Verification: Verifies the person’s identity, ensuring they are who they are said to be.
  • Criminal History: Shows criminal convictions/pending charges at local, state, and federal levels. 
  • Address History: Shows the current residence address and past addresses if relevant to the application.
  • Education Check: Verifies the educational degrees and qualifications.
  • Employment History: Lists the individual’s work history, including job titles, responsibilities, and length of employment. 
  • Driving Records: Shows traffic violations and the accidents the individual was involved in if relevant to the application.
  • Credit History: Summarizes the financial information to assess financial responsibility.
  • Offender Registry: Alerts if the individual’s name is on a sex offender registry.

As you can see, there is no mention of drug tests, as they don’t appear on background checks. This should answer questions about if a background check includes a drug test.

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The results of a drug test, whether passed or failed, are between the employee and the employer. So they don’t appear on background checks. However, this doesn’t mean a failed drug test won’t ever attract a future employer’s attention.

Can Former Employers Disclose the Results of a Drug Test?

Although background checks don’t include a drug test result, people may contact a former employer to ask about it. This is where things get a bit complicated and comes down to the purpose of the drug test.

If the drug test was done to vet candidates for a job, former employers can’t disclose the results. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects an individual’s medical information from being shared without their consent. However, an employer may disclose that a former employee wasn’t up to the company standards but can’t specifically say the reason was a failed drug test.

A drug test result can only be disclosed if it becomes a public record. For example, the results of drug tests that lead to a criminal charge are public records. This may also appear on a criminal background check. Since anyone can see them, a former employer can mention it. The same applies if the drug test was done to comply with a government agency. In this case, the results are also public records.

An employer doesn’t have to run a background check to see these public records. People search engines will also show them after entering an individual’s full name. That said, for a background check to include a drug test, it must be public information.

Can You Remove Yourself From Public Records?

You can request some of your sensitive information from public records to be removed, such as your phone number and social security number. However, public information like court records, property records, mugshots, and business filings can’t be removed. 

While these can’t be erased from public records, you may contact reverse search websites to remove your information. This request won’t delete your public records from county, state, or federal government websites, but your results will no longer appear on these lookup tools. This can make finding your public records difficult, but anyone can still view them on government websites.

That said, even though a background check doesn’t include a drug test in most cases, anyone who searches public records will know a failed drug test that led to a conviction. Aside from this, drug tests don’t show on background checks, including past and current ones.