Does your company test employees or applicants for drugs?

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug use in the United States is extensive, with approximately 22 million Americans 12 years of age and older reporting past-month use of an illicit drug. Testing managers or supervisors can alleviate problems related to substance abuse by implementing a testing program that screens potential employees before hiring, as well as current workers who are suspected of being under the influence while at work.

Creating a Drug Free Workplace

Every year, countless individuals are awarded new jobs solely because they tested drug free. Companies have reported benefits including less absenteeism, increased productivity and higher morale after implementing a drug testing program. Businesses should recognize however that random testing programs have their own set of challenges.

Here are a few things to consider when creating a drug-free workplace program:

Types of Drug Testing – Urine drug testing is the most common method of drug screening in pre-employment and random drug testing programs. A variety of other options exist including saliva, sweat patch and blood tests.

Employee Rights – Federal laws such as The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can complicate matters for employers attempting to establish a drug free work place. Adhering to ADA provisions may increase an employer’s risk of being sued if they disqualify employees from employment without proper medical documentation regarding the use of illegal drugs. In addition, many state governments have their own guidelines regarding employee rights which also must be considered when implementing a drug testing program.

Random Testing – The more employees a manager tests, the better the chances of uncovering those who are currently under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, not everyone will be happy about being selected for random drug testing and some may attempt to tamper with a drug test by substituting another person’s urine for their own during a test. A number of methods exist including using Urine Luck kits, synthetic urine and drinking fluids to flush out your system before going to take a drug test. They often use home remedies such as vinegar, goldenseal tea and cranberry juice to try pass drug tests. In addition, some companies go as far as collecting applicants’ information upon submission of an application in order to screen them for potential substance abuse problems. This information will be used to determine who gets screened for drugs and how often they are tested.

Drug Free Workplace Act – It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees, free of illegal drugs or under the influence of alcohol. Employers that meet certain requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) can receive up to a 5% rate reduction on worker’s compensation premiums through the Safety and Loss Prevention Program (SLPP). To qualify, businesses must develop and implement an Impaired Driver Policy (IDP), which includes testing workers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work.

Under this act all employees are subject to random drug testing unless they are in one of the following groups:

1. A new employee hired for a probationary period under certain conditions.

2. An employee who reasonably appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work.

3. Employees must follow specific instructions given by their employers before undergoing tests. For example, an employer may require that employees are told that home medications are not permitted on the day of testing, employees should report for testing at their normal starting time and that workers suspected of being impaired will be tested immediately without notice.

4. Valid medical reasons exist prohibiting them from taking a test at any time during regular working hours unless otherwise stated in an approved Federal State DOT program or local police agency.

Selecting Collection Sites – Federal law requires that drug tests must be collected by qualified personnel under the supervision of a licensed physician. Federal guidelines, which include standards for laboratories and collection site employees, were established to ensure the confidentiality of specimens and prevent adulteration or substitution.

Employee Cooperation – Employees are not required to submit samples for testing; however, they cannot refuse without consequences. Most employers make it clear what will happen if an employee refuses to take a drug test by including language in their policy manuals. This section of the manual typically states that employees who fail to participate or cooperate with company requirements may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

Written Policy – An employer is responsible for providing written notice to employees that clearly explains what drugs are being tested for, possible consequences of failing a drug test, who will conduct the tests and where, testing methods used, how specimens are collected and how they will be analyzed. The written notice must also state whether an employee can refuse to submit to a pre-employment or random test without fear of reprisal from their employer as per policy.

Unannounced Tests – Random testing is based on 100% unannounced selection by computer. All tests selected at random should be supervised by one or more licensed physician(s).

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