Random drug testing uses the element of surprise as a drug deterrent. Your employees know upon hire that the company randomly drug tests. As a result of knowing there is always a chance that they could be required to take a drug test, they are more likely to avoid drugs. Because of this, workplace accidents decline and productivity improves.
There are other benefits to the random employee drug test. No matter the industry, statistics show that drug or alcohol impairment are both contributing factors regarding accidents on the job. Less drug use equals less chance of injuries and accidents in the workplace.
With no way to prepare ahead of time, random testing allows employers to identify those employees that have a problem with substance abuse. Job intervention might be the catalyst that begins rehabilitation.
Have your policies in writing
In order to legally perform random drug tests, your drug-free workplace protocol must first contain a written policy of procedure. A written policy protects you from a discriminatory lawsuit filed by a disgruntled employee who popped positive on a random test. By lining out the way to follow the procedure from start to finish, there will be no reason to suspect that acts of favoritism, bias, or prejudice are occurring.
DOT regulations require random drug testing. The policies and procedures are in place. It will just be a matter of implementing them within your company.
It’s a known fact that workplace accidents increase when employees who have used drugs or alcohol are on-site. Employers that have drug free policies and procedures in place receive reduced rates in workers compensation insurance premiums.
How does random drug testing work?
After drawing up the required policies and procedures and educating your staff, the next step would be to set up your drug testing pool. All employee names are entered into a database. The preset number for testing will be randomly selected at the time the test is to be conducted. Most employers choose a third party administrator (TPA) to handle the testing pool.
If you want to start a random drug testing program, we can help. We can explain how the process works and supply you with the information that you need to establish the correct policies and procedures.
If regulated by the DOT, at least 50% of employees must randomly test over the calendar year. It’s important to note that this may not mean half of the staff, however.
The software generates a completely random employee selection list. The employees report to the testing site to conduct their drug test.
The third party software selection method is ideal for random testing because there is no way to “fix” the test. The following methods of selection are never acceptable:
- Drawing from a hat
- Rolling dice
- Throwing darts
- Choosing a card
Granted, most would not resort to these selection methods. However, if they are used by way of example, you can see how these methods could easily be challenged as being rigged in some way. Especially, when employees complain that they are tested more often than everyone and then so-and-so never gets chosen.
A TPA completely eliminates this possibility.
When using the random selection software, the employee’s name goes right back into the mix with everyone else. Unfortunately, the odds that some employees get chosen more often and some never at all can be common from a statistical perspective.
The collection methods for the random drug test remain the same as for any employee drug testing that is completed. A trained technician will first collect the specimens, and they will then be handled and transported strictly according to the company’s chain-of-custody protocol.
Urine drug test
The most widely used collection method is the urine test. It is cost-effective, extremely accurate, and accepted by the workforce. It is so commonplace that employees have come to expect this type of test.
Most employers choose the 5 panel urine test. In fact, the DOT requires a 5 panel drug test with expanded opiates. However, employers of the general workforce are free to use others, such as the 10 panel or 12 panel drug screens. They may also make up their own specific testing panels.
The technician will collect the specimen, document the temperature, and obtain an employee signature. It will then be delivered to the lab following the chain-of-custody protocol releasing the specimens to the lab for testing. An Immunoassay (IA) test is performed first and if this test produces a positive result, a second test named gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is administered to determine the specific drug(s) detected.
Negative results are obtained in 24 hours, but if there is a positive result and the second test must be done, expect results in a few days.
Mouth swab drug test
This test is becoming a more popular choice for random testing. It is noninvasive, needs little privacy, and the results are obtainable on the spot. In a matter of minutes, the employee is ready to return to work.
The mouth swab, or saliva, test is more costly than the urine test. This test only detects drugs used within the 72 hours just prior to the test. All types of drugs are detectable. It depends on the screening panel chosen.
Employers can create a specific screening panel. Mouth swabs also detect alcohol use.
Hair follicle drug test
Hair follicle drug tests are gaining more notice in the realm of employee drug testing. They are the most expensive testing method. However, hair follicle drug tests are noninvasive, quick to complete, and are extremely accurate. In fact, the DOT is in the process of switching from urine testing to the hair sample test.
The technician uses scissors to collect approximately 120 strands of hair cut as close to the scalp as possible. If necessary, they will take the sample from several areas to make sure the test spot is not visible by others.
A preset 5 panel, 12 panel, 9 panel, or 10 panel are commonly available. But, employers may always create a specific drug testing panel for their employees with no hassle.
There is virtually no way to pass this test if there has been drug use. The window of detection is 90 days for all. The metabolites containing evidence of drug use passes from the hair follicle into the center of the growing hair leaving a long-standing record behind. It takes around 24 hours for negative results, positive results take up to 72 hours.
Marijuana legalization is making an impact
Marijuana remains on the DOT testing panel and likely will be for the foreseeable future. This is because it’s still listed as an illicit drug with no medical benefit at the federal level. The individual state laws allowing its use will have no regard.
Many states, however, are choosing to legalize medical or recreational marijuana use. Unregulated employers will choose whether to continue testing for it, but, safety in the workplace remains a top priority. For the time being, most employers are choosing to follow the federal government’s lead regarding marijuana and will keep it a part of their testing regime.
Are random drug tests legal?
Yes. As long as your employer has the correct policies and procedures in place and follows them, random drug tests are legal.
How random is random?
Randomly speaking, imagine the selection process to be reaching up and grabbing a name out of the cloud. All employee names are entered into the random pool database. When it’s time for the test, a list is generated from within the software.
What is the “employee pool?”
This is a database of all employee names used to generate a list for random drug testing.
If my boss is having a bad day, can he just pull a random on us or was that strictly coincidence?
There is no random spite testing allowed. Ever. The number of tests held throughout the year is predetermined.
Why do companies do random drug testing?
While it is important to know if an employee is actively using drugs at work, the actual reason is to deter drug use altogether.
What is “oversampling?”
Oversampling is choosing more than the designated ratio of employee names to fit the suggested testing ratio. Odds are that someone whose name pops up on the list is going to be unable to take the test that day due to sickness, vacation, or their child’s school field trip. The standard oversampling number is 20%.
What do random drug tests look for?
What is a “consortium?”
A drug screening consortium is a group of employers that band together to create a larger employee pool for the purpose of randomly screening for drugs and alcohol.
Can I go to jail if I fail a random drug test?
All states have privacy laws in place to protect citizens. The fact that you failed the company drug test will probably go no further than the human resources department.
What is a “TPA?”
A TPA is a Third Party Administrator, someone off-site administers the drug tests and maintains the employee pool.
My company mouth swabs for random tests, what if I keep mouthwash in my locker?
Your saliva is your saliva. Rinsing with any substance will have no effect on the test.
I failed the random and as a result, I lost my job. Is this going to haunt me on my background check?
No, the results don’t become part of a public record that other employers can see on a standard background check.
Can my old boss share the information that I failed a drug test?
Technically, yes, as long as they tell the truth. They probably won’t, though, for liability reasons. The best way to find out the answer would be for you to ask them.
Negative random equaled losing my job. How do I explain my “reason for leaving” if actually asked during an interview?
If you think there is a possibility that your failed drug test will be discovered, just come clean. Employers are human. If you take responsibility from the beginning, it could speak volumes to them as to your character. Live and learn, right? They might just give you a chance.
Can I refuse to take the random drug test?
Yes. However, it may mean immediate termination. It will be stipulated as so in the employee handbook you received upon hire if that is the case.
So, is a random drug test literally a “tap you on the shoulder and off you go” moment?
An employers drug testing policy determines this. Typically, a day-shift worker might, but a night shift employee would probably be instructed to report to the testing site by a certain time after ending their shift.
If I fail a random drug test and lose my job, can I get unemployment?
Yes, but laws vary state by state. The unemployment office will have this information readily available.