Creating a Strong Workplace Drug Testing Policy March 7th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Creating a Strong Workplace Drug Testing Policy

Creating a Strong Workplace Drug Testing Policy

Physical jobs can have safety implications that make workplace drug testing necessary.

Many workplaces depend on employees who are engaged and thinking clearly to safely and effectively complete their duties. Workplace drug testing policies can give employers peace of mind that job site safety will not be compromised and that their employees will be sober while at work. While some care must be taken to create a strong but responsive drug testing policy, an effective testing policy can reduce liability if an accident should occur, as well as help to prevent accidents that might occur if drug use isn’t prohibited.

Many factors go into creating a strong drug testing policy in the workplace. While employers want to keep employees, customers and the general public safe, they must also be aware of the rights of all parties and make sure no one’s rights are infringed upon.

Is Workplace Drug Testing Legal?

Federal laws don’t prohibit drug testing in the workplace, but a few state laws don’t allow it for positions that are not safety-sensitive. Employers should make sure they comply with applicable laws before setting up a drug testing program.

In addition, many states have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana, which could affect workplace testing laws and programs now or in the future. In some instances, workplaces can still require employees to be drug-free even when a particular drug like marijuana is legal, but these issues must be dealt with before putting a policy in place.

How to Start a Drug Testing Policy

If your company leadership has determined that a urine drug testing program is needed, there are some important considerations that will lead to a more effective policy. First: What is the purpose of the testing? A program that wants to keep the workplace safe will look different from one that aims to identify addiction in the workplace and facilitate addiction treatment for the common benefit of employees and employers.

When and how to test are other decisions employers must make. Some common options are to test all employees before they are hired, to conduct random testing during employment or to test when there is reasonable suspicion of use. Testing can also be done after an accident to determine whether drug or alcohol use was a factor.  

How an employer chooses to test will be based on the purpose or purposes of the testing and should be carefully considered. It may not be effective to test only before employment begins since many applicants who do use drugs know how to evade drug tests that they know will take place at a specific time.  

Workplace drug testing needs to be administered fairly and consistently.

Different types of testing can be done. More basic testing checks for the presence of about five major types of drugs, but more in-depth tests test for up to 10 different drugs. There are also individual tests for specific drugs. There must be supervision when a urine test is performed so that employees can’t use someone else’s urine.

The cost of drug testing is covered by the employer and testing will most likely be conducted on company time. Employers need to be prepared to pay for the testing and also pay employees for their time while being tested. Budgeting for these costs as well as human resources coverage to handle the testing and follow-up will be necessary.

Timeliness is often important when implementing drug testing policies. Many drugs only stay in the system for a few days and alcohol is generally only present for a few hours. If the test is delayed beyond this time frame, it will not show an accurate result and can make your workplace less safe than if testing were accurate.

Notifying Employees About Testing

It is very important to communicate clearly to employees about how they will be drug tested. Whatever policy is adopted, it must be written down and shared with employees prior to testing. Aspects of the testing process that should be included in the written policy include:

  • Purpose for testing
  • Times and circumstances for testing (For random testing, a specific time isn’t given, but employees need to be notified that they will be tested randomly)
  • What happens if employees test positive for a substance
  • What happens if employees refuse to be tested
  • What constitutes a refusal to be tested
  • How to appeal a drug test
  • Employee rights with regard to testing

Having everything in writing will let employees know exactly what they need to do for compliance and how certain situations will be handled. For instance, it may be important to let employees know that trying to avoid or delay a drug test could be considered a refusal to be tested, because they could, in some cases, be terminated for refusing, but might not consider delaying as a refusal.

A written drug testing policy can also help companies avoid liability if they do need to enforce the policy by suspending or terminating an employee. It will also help employees understand the policy if HR goes over the information with them in person rather than just giving them a copy of the written policy.

The Importance of Consistent Enforcement

A drug-testing policy will not be effective in the long run unless enforcement is consistent and fair. Failing to enforce a policy can open up your company to liability or dangerous accidents.

When any policy isn’t consistently enforced, employees may talk about situations that occur and will be more likely to litigate when the policy is enforced against them because they will feel that they’ve been treated unfairly.

If you need help to comply with a drug-free workplace in the wake of a substance use disorder,  contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake today to access addiction treatment resources.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.