Grocery store employer not obligated to reimburse plaintiff’s drug test

In a recent Ninth Circuit decision, the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s ruling in favor of grocery chain WinCo Holdings, Inc., finding that plaintiffs who were not yet employed when they passed drug tests were not entitled to compensation at this time. passed to be tested.

In Johnson v. WinCo Foods Holdings, Inc., et al. (WinCo), a class of applicants who successfully received job offers and were subsequently hired as employees of WinCo filed claims alleging that they should have received compensation as an employee for the time and expense associated with a pre-employment drug test. Under WinCo procedures at the time, a hiring manager would call successful applicants to extend a job offer subject to the completion of a background check and drug test. WinCo paid for the testing costs but did not compensate for the travel costs or time required to take the test.

The district court ruled that the band members were not employees of WinCo when they underwent drug testing and therefore were not entitled to compensation. The Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision, noting the absence of any California state court case on the issue. The Ninth Circuit considered the “control test” standard under California law to determine whether an individual is an employee. While WinCo prescribed the time and date of the tests and the location where the test was performed, the drug test was part of the application process and the test result did not control any aspect of job performance.

The Ninth Circuit also determined that the job offer was contingent on passing the drug test (and a background check) and therefore there was no employment contract to back up the job offer. complainants’ assertion that they had been hired as employees at the time they were tested. . The Ninth Circuit pointed out that WinCo went to great lengths when the verbal offer was made to expressly communicate that its job offer was conditional on passing the drug test.

Although the Ninth Circuit generally asks the Supreme Court of California to rule on new questions of California law, the Ninth Circuit has stated that, in this case, “[t]he law is clear. There is no need to delay the resolution of this matter and others that may be pending in the federal district courts by certifying any matter to the Supreme Court of California.

As a caveat, this case only deals with pre-employment drug testing and does not deal with drug testing for current employees.

© 2022 Jackson LewisNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 168