Back to the Basics: Drug Testing in the Workplace

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Drug testing as part of the Drug-Free Workplace Program has been successful in lowering the rates of positive tests. Nearly seven in ten Americans have used drugs while they were at work, according to a recent Detox survey of 1,000 Americans.

All companies, whether just starting out with drug testing or reviewing current processes, should be sure that it is effectively communicated to both employees and applicants. A drug testing policy should address which employees or applicants will be tested, the circumstances under which testing will take place, what substances will be tested for and what the consequences will be for a positive test.

There might be additional policies for safety sensitive positions, union guidelines or other entities like the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines for regulated motor carriers, airline pilots, train operators and others.

It is important to have a drug testing policy reviewed by an attorney experienced in drug-free workplace issues to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When drug testing should occur

  • Pre-employment
    • This will avoid the hiring of individuals who are actively abusing drugs.
  • Post-incident
    • People using drugs are at increased risk of errors and injury. This also may help protect the employer if there is any litigation following the incident.
  • Reasonable suspicion
    • In your company policy, define the factors that may give rise to a reasonable suspicion, including objective factors, such as an employee’s appearance, speech and behavior, as well as, any other information specific to your workplace.
  • Random
    • Drug testing should be done randomly for people who work in safety-sensitive positions.

Types of drug testing

  • Urine Drug Testing (UDT)
    • Urine is the most commonly tested substance for drugs. It is easily obtained and there is a broad range of testing that can be done. There are very specific guidelines when observed collection is indicated.
  • Oral Drug Testing
    • Collecting oral fluids makes it much harder to compromise testing. At this time, oral fluid testing cannot test for as many drugs as urine drug tests, but this technology is improving rapidly.
  • Hair Testing
    • Hair testing is more expensive than urine and oral fluid testing. It does have the advantage of detecting any drug over the previous 90 days.

What substances should companies test for?

It is very important that employers remain current on what drugs they are testing for. Many companies use a standard 5-panel test that will miss most drugs of abuse.

A 10-panel urinalysis is by far the most popular for companies. This type of drug panel searches the top five street drugs (cocaine, heroin, meth amphetamines, marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP) and the top five prescription drugs (benzodiazepines, quaaludes, methadone, propoxyphene, barbiturates). Other drugs may be added to or subtracted from this panel as specific requirements warrant.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have currently passed laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Some companies have even stopped including marijuana on pre-employment drug tests. When it comes to federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug.

It is important to know the drugs that are commonly abused in your area. It may be helpful to call one of your local substance abuse treatment centers for this information.

SELECTiON.COM® is a (TPA) Third Party Administrator for our clients that wish to utilize drug screening as part of their background screening. We partner and integrate with Quest Diagnostics™, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic testing, and Medical Review Officer (MRO) and Doctor’s Review Service (DRS).

We offer random drug screening for companies who have a random drug testing policy.

SELECTiON.COM® will work with your company to help you navigate applicant drug testing and the results.

Contact us today to see how SELECTiON.COM® can take your employment background check process to the next level.

NOTE: The contents of this article are not legal advice for your particular situation. You should neither act nor rely upon anything stated in this article without first consulting your own legal counsel.