Conducting Drug Test for Your Employees: When and How

February 21, 2022

It is a well-known fact that drug abuse can have a negative impact on employee productivity and safety. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that drug abuse costs employers an estimated $81 billion annually in lost productivity. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor states that substance abusers are up to six times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than their non-abusing coworkers. Given these statistics, it is no surprise that many employers choose to conduct drug tests as part of their pre-employment screening process, as well as during random and incident-based drug testing programs. However, before implementing a drug-testing program, it is important for employers to understand when and how often drug tests should be conducted.

Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Mandatory pre-employment drug testing is legal in almost all U.S. states. Certain jobs such as those related to the transportation industry are required by law to conduct pre-employment drug tests, but others can legally require applicants to submit to drug testing as well. Employers should check with their state’s Department of Labor or human resources department for specific regulations surrounding hiring practices before beginning the process. Pre-employment drug tests are typically conducted as either a urine or hair test. However, you can also find oral fluid drug testing for your business to test applicants. These tests are usually easy to administer and only take a few minutes to perform.

Pre-employment drug tests are meant to weed out applicants who use drugs on a frequent basis or have recently used drugs. For this reason, they typically screen for the following substances: cocaine, marijuana, heroin, amphetamine, and so on.

Random Drug Testing

Besides pre-employment testing, some employers opt to implement random drug testing. This program involves randomly selecting employees and administering a drug test. While employers are not supposed to know who is selected, the workers who are tested should be notified that they have been chosen for random testing. Random drug and alcohol testing encourage employees to stay drug and alcohol-free throughout their career. Usually, these tests are conducted once in every calendar quarter.

Incident-Based Drug Testing

For employers who feel that their current drug and alcohol policies do not go far enough to prevent substance abuse in the workplace, there is another alternative: incident-based testing. This process involves identifying a specific instance of employee impairment or suspected substance use and administering a post-incident test. The test can be given at any time, even if an extended period of time has passed since the incident. As with random drug testing, incident-based tests often focus on drugs and alcohol that pose a hazard to public safety: prescription pain medications, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines.

Regular Drug Testing

When regular drug testing is conducted correctly, it can help employees stay drug-free, improve the safety of their workplace, and increase productivity. To implement a regular drug-testing program, employers should consider whether they want to test all workers or only certain individuals (for example, those who operate machinery). Employers should also designate which departments will be tested (if not every department) and how frequently tests should be conducted (this depends on the prevalence of substance abuse in your industry).

Return-to-Duty Drug Testing

The only way to determine whether an employee has successfully completed a drug or alcohol treatment program is through return-to-duty testing. When employees have been terminated from employment due to substance abuse, many of them will undergo some type of rehabilitation before they can be considered for reemployment. For this reason, returning employees are typically required to undergo return-to-duty (RTD) testing before they are permitted back on the job. This type of testing is also known as aftercare testing or post-treatment testing.

Follow-Up Drug Testing

When an employee finishes the RTD process and returns to work, the re-employment process is only partially complete. Once an employee has successfully completed return-to-duty testing, employers should establish follow-up drug testing protocols in case they are required. This type of testing consists of random, post-incident types of tests that are conducted over a period of time.

Test All Employees

While only some types of employees are subject to testing, employers should keep in mind that all employees should be treated equally. With the exception of pre-employment drug tests, all other types of tests should apply to everyone in your workplace or field of work. To avoid claims of discrimination, employers should not give any worker an excuse to say that his or her colleagues were tested more frequently or with less suspicion. If you don’t want to spend resources on all employees, you can opt to test a random sample. To choose a random sample, simply use a random number generator to select your test subjects.

Comply with Your State Laws

Whenever you implement a drug-testing program for your employees, it’s important that you understand all of the applicable laws within your state or country. All employers should have a written drug and alcohol policy that includes the list of prescription drugs their workers are prohibited from using. If you operate a trucking company or other transportation business, you should also be aware of federal rules and regulations governing the alcohol and drug use of your employees. Also, there are some regulations governing the confidentiality of your employees’ drug-testing results. If in doubt, seek legal counsel to help you understand what you need to do to ensure compliance with applicable laws.

Drug testing in the workplace is a complex process that involves many different types of tests, such as pre-employment tests, random tests, incident-based tests, regular drug testing, return to duty tests, and follow-up testing. It is also important to know when and how to implement these different types of tests. When done correctly, drug testing can help employees stay drug-free, improve the safety of their workplace, and increase productivity. Keep in mind that you should always comply with certain state laws when conducting any type of drug testing in your workplace. If you don’t know the applicable laws for your state, you should consult legal counsel. We hope this article has helped teach you what you need to know about drug testing in the workplace.

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