Last updated: November 23, 2020
With so many changes in drug laws, it’s imperative that you are as up-to-date with them as is possible. Not knowing can land you and your company in trouble, not only with a civil suit from a disgruntled employee, but also with the Department of Labor. Part of the problem with drug laws is that there are many differences between federal and state laws. At the federal level, marijuana is still illegal, even if a state has legalized it for medical use, but federal prosecutions are rare, especially for individual users. There are three basics that will help you and your company stay on the right side of both criminal and civil law, regardless of what they currently are.
First, be honest with your employees. They have the right to know, from pre-hire onward, if your company’s a drug-free workplace or not, just as you have the right to expect your employees to not use drugs. They also have the right to know what to expect should they ever fail a drug test. But, before any drug testing policies are implemented in your place of business, make sure your policies follow state and federal laws.
Some states prohibit or greatly limit employers’ rights in drug testing of employees, while other states permit Zero Tolerance policies, and you need to know which applies to your company. Legislation at the federal level and local laws will provide substantial information in forming your policy, but you may also want to investigate pertinent case law to see how recent rulings may affect your intended policy.
Second, understanding that some drugs are more popular than others in different areas will help you choose which drugs to test for. Using the traditional urine test is less expensive than hair follicle testing, and while it won’t show extended, long-term use, urine testing can be much less costly, and can be followed up with more expensive testing if desired.
Third, it is very important to know when to test an employee. Random and reasonable suspicion testing must follow specific protocols. Making sure your company follows the law in this area is extremely important, on many levels, including public relations. When an employee has had an accident, insurance policies might not pay unless drug testing was performed properly.
Keeping employees informed about your expectations and knowing what the laws are that you must follow will help everyone be more productive.
For your part, this includes privacy law, labor law, and HIPAA, as well. Federal regulations, local and state laws, and even recent case law may need to be looked into to ensure that your policy will be effective and abide by the law. Checking on a regular basis for changes and new developments should be a part of your business’s maintenance plan. Understanding what drugs are popular in your area, and knowing when, and when not to, test for drug use will help protect employees, your business, and your clients, as well as build trust with your employee base. Having the means to adequately test, when needed, will help you keep costs to a minimum, as well.