As an employer, you may want to conduct drug tests on employees for a variety of reasons, with safety most likely being the primary one. Drug testing is often a sensitive issue in the workplace and can be challenging for both employers and employees.
In many cases, the risks of not drug testing are greater than the cost implications of doing so but you need to ensure that you follow best practices when testing your workforce.
Is drug testing right for your workforce?
A drug-testing program can increase productivity, reduce turnover of employees and reduce accidents. No comprehensive federal law regulates drug testing in the private sector, so as an employer in a private company, you need to know what state laws apply to your company.
The drug-testing program you decide on will largely depend on your industry. For example, if you have employees who perform safety-sensitive or dangerous jobs, you will need to ensure the safety of your employees and your customers.
What type of testing will you do?
The most common types of drug tests include testing prospective employees, testing pre-assignment, testing due to reasonable suspicion, random testing or post-accident testing.
Several of these types of testing may be restricted or prohibited in your state. For example, pre-assignment testing is illegal in a number of states. If you do implement pre-employment testing, you must be consistent and test every candidate after making an offer of employment or you could be accused of discrimination.
Random testing is performed unannounced throughout the year. Selection should be decided by computer software and certain states require you to use a third party for selection.
You need to find out under which circumstances you can legally test employees randomly for drugs in your state. For example, random testing is prohibited in Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and the cities of Boulder and San Francisco.
Reasonable suspicion testing is the most common form of drug testing in most workplaces. This means testing is based on objective facts rather than vague suspicions or rumors. Supervisors are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug use and thoroughly document reasons for wanting to do a drug test.
What will your drug testing policies be?
Make sure that your policies meet all the necessary regulations. For example, they have to meet the Americans with Disability Act regulations.
This requires you to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace. For example, you can’t just fire a person taking medication prescribed by a doctor because it gives a positive result on a drug test.
What testing procedures will you follow?
The different methods of drug testing range in terms of accuracy and cost. For instance, a urine sample is less expensive to test than a hair sample. An oral fluid drug test is as effective as a urine test and all that’s required is a mouth swab (no bathroom necessary!). Note that blood testing and oral fluid testing are illegal in some states.
A hair drug test requires cutting many strands of hair close to the scalp and is a good way of detecting past drug use rather than current impairment.
A urine test will detect the presence of drug residues after the effects have worn off. This can pose a problem in states where use of recreational marijuana is legal and employers can’t discriminate against employers for outside of work marijuana use.
Whatever type of drug testing or do or the procedures and practices you use, you need to make sure that what you do is legally defensible.