Ask the Expert: How do I handle a failed drug test?

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Many Wall Street firms conduct drug tests on employees or prospective employees. At-will workers (i.e., those who aren't protected by an employment contract) can be fired for flunking a drug test. Whether this will overshadow your job hunt is another question.

Legally, your employer is allowed to provide accurate information about your work record, job performance and the reasons employment ended-including your drug test failure. Lucky for you, most firms are too worried about lawsuits to confirm much beyond dates of service, position(s) held, and prior compensation. Thus, even though your former employer is under no legal obligation to keep your drug test result secret, it is very unlikely that it will disclose the information voluntarily to a prospective employer.

If your secret does leak out, you can kiss your chances goodbye. There is probably no way to redeem the situation unless you can produce a medical explanation for why you failed the test.

One final piece of advice: You may indeed escape further consequences of your drug test failure. Nevertheless, this ought to be a wake-up call for you. Clean up your act if you haven't already done so. You'll be better off-and you'll never have to worry about failing another drug test.

Next week's question: When you're just starting out on your career, is it better to go with a boutique firm or a bulge-bracket bank?

What would you advise? Send your answer to

Look for the Experts' answer to this dilemma and readers' comments on Ask the Expert next week. If you would like to submit a question to our panel, ASK THE EXPERT.

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