Last updated: January 30, 2023
An increasing number of companies are randomly testing employees for illicit drug use in the U.S. In fact, 9.1 million urine tests were conducted last year in the country for employers by Quest Diagnostics and almost 350,000 results indicated drug use. The drug of choice, in most cases, was marijuana, painkillers and amphetamines.
Issues with Workplace Drug Testing System
It is estimated that almost 40 percent of workers in the U.S. are subjected to drug tests at the time of recruitment. In fact, a 2011 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking report indicates that 65 percent of participating employers conducted pre-employment drug testing. In general, it sounds like a good HR policy to create a sober, safer and addiction-free workforce, which is also more productive. However, things can become a little more difficult when employers make some common missteps in developing and managing their drug testing programs.
Not all drug testing programs are sophisticated enough to detect illegal drug use in the workplace. These people are usually the reasons behind workplace accidents that result in reputation damage and costly litigation. Besides, such employees could pose compliance risks to organizations that have state or federal contracts.
While drug testing in the U.S. is far more widespread than anywhere else, some of these programs fail to reveal the damage caused on the job. But there are ways employers could minimize these risks by evaluating the following components of their workplace drug testing program.
When Drug Testing is Not Comprehensive
While 65 percent of employers who participated in the HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report of 2011 (mentioned earlier) accepted that they conduct drug screening at workplace, just 39 percent of the respondents implemented a random drug testing program. This is why most of your hiring go undetected.
Moreover, just 22 percent conduct drug screening on contingent workers; that too, the tests are not random. This further increases the risk factors for organizations that have a large number of contingent workers.
When Conducting Random Drug Testing
It is true that random drug testing is an effective way to detecting workplace drug abuse; however, there are a few risks involved for the employers if they fail to develop and implement the program properly. In fact, it is almost impossible to detect an employee with an ineffective random drug testing program, even if you manage to isolate the individual. This happens when you give a generous amount of notice to the particular employee.
However, it is possible to mitigate this risk by reducing the amount of advance notice given to the employee. When you limit the time between the notice and the drug testing, it decreases the chances of the employee to take measures to evade detection.
The way you select employees for drug testing also play a significant role. Employees can make discrimination claims if they think they are being frequently singled out. It is therefore important to make sure that all employees subject to drug screening are selected for each round of testing i.e. if an employee was asked to take the previous two rounds of drug screening, he/she should be selected for the third round, just like everyone else.
Considering Legal Compliance
Laws and regulations related to drug testing vary by industry, state and federal contract status. This makes managing a drug testing program a complex business. There are a myriad of laws involved with workplace drug testing and it is important for employers to understand each of them clearly, otherwise they are more than likely to do something due to which they could face legal compliance risks.
First thing first, you must thoroughly understand the state laws related to drug screening where you operate. The laws are even more severe for organizations operating under a federal contract as they must meet the requirements mentioned in the Drug Free Work Place Act of 1988. In addition, organizations regulated by authorities like the DOT (Department of Transportation), DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) or FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) must adhere to the standards related to drug and alcohol testing programs in order to avoid legal complications and costly fines.
Addressing Medical Marijuana Laws
At present 23 states, including the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana. But marijuana or cannabis still remains an illegal schedule one drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, creating a conflict between federal and state laws. This puts many employers in a tough situation and as a result, they often fail to properly address issues arising from medical marijuana use in workplace, which is also abused by employees.
Employers therefore need to create a specific policy for addressing medical marijuana laws in their workplace medical marijuana programs. They need to incorporate state regulations while considering federal status. For example, organizations working on a federal contract should follow federal regulations related to use of marijuana even if they are operating in states that have legalized medical marijuana use. Also, create a uniform policy in writing and communicate it clearly within the work space.