Last updated: February 24, 2020
Part of maintaining a drug-free workplace involves administering drug testing, based on reasonable suspicion, to reduce the risk of workplace accidents. Many employers today conduct pre-employment drug testing before an employee can begin their job, as well as post-accident drug testing after an injury is sustained at work, but most states also allow an employee to be tested for drug and alcohol use if the employer has a reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence. This suspicion will usually be based on the direct observation of either another employee or supervisor.
What would constitute suspicion of drug use?
- The smell of alcohol on clothing or breath
- Physical evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia
- Problems with coordination such as walking
- Slurred speech
- Erratic behavior
- The inability to perform routine or everyday tasks
- Inability to sit still or constant fidgeting
- Dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes
What is required for reasonable suspicion drug testing?
With the exception of companies that are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), employers have full discretion in their drug testing policy. This means they are able to require reasonable suspicion drug testing when they suspect an employee may be under the influence of drug and/or alcohol. Some of the steps and procedures a company should follow with reasonable drug testing are:
- Making sure that reasonable suspicion drug testing is part of your drug testing policy and is reflected in policy documents
- Ensuring that supervisors are properly trained in detecting the signs of suspected drug use, and attend continue training throughout their employment
- Staying up-to-date on current information about new drugs and the symptoms associated with drug use
- Creating a signs and symptoms document for supervisors and human resource departments to have as part of their training materials
- Making part of your plan require the verification of a second supervisor or company official when an initial drug use is suspected
- Developing a documented step-by-step plan on how to handle each reasonable suspicion drug test
What safeguards should be put in place?
Once you have a set plan and policy established, you should put specific safeguards in place to protect both the company and employee during a reasonable suspicion drug test.
Report any suspicion immediately
A company may not be able to justify reasonable suspicion testing if they are basing the suspicion on previous employee behavior and not on current suspicions. The suspected use should be occurring at the time the test is requested.
Employees should be put on leave pending test results
While you are awaiting the results of the reasonable suspicion drug test, the employee should be placed on leave and not perform any duties in the workplace capacity to avoid a risk of injury, accident, or working under the influence. If the results come back, negative the employee will be able to return to perform their duties.
An employee should never drive to a testing site
When an employee is sent for a drug test, they should not be allowed to drive themselves to the testing facility or be allowed to drive anywhere else until a negative drug test is received. This will ensure that the employee is safe and not putting others at risk due to intoxication. (Our clients don’t need to worry about this because we come to your location to conduct drug testing, 24/7.)
Having an adequately explained and detailed workplace drug policy that is clearly communicated to your employees is the best way to ensure fair testing and a safe and productive workplace environment.