Last updated: March 30, 2020
Random drug testing is part of a drug free workplace program in which specialized computer software randomly identifies specific employees to be tested. Then a specimen is collected from each employee using urinalysis, oral fluid (also known as mouth swab), or hair, and these specimens are then sent to a lab to determine if the employees are in compliance with an company’s drug policies, subject to employment contracts and state and federal laws. These tests are typically designed to detect metabolized traces of drugs such as opioids, marijuana, amphetamines, and other drugs, both illicit and prescription.
How are random drug tests conducted?
Subject pools are selected at random from the entire workforce, and employees have the exact same chance of being selected even if they were already selected for the previous drug test. Statistically speaking, repeat selections are bound to affect a small number of employees. As such, to ensure complete impartially and protect against accusations of bias, computer programs are used to select the pool of employees to be tested. Testing dates are also spread throughout the year in non-predictable patterns.
These tests should be conducted by trained professionals to ensure compliance with state and local laws, and to avoid HR-related lawsuits and fines. All tests must be conducted in an environment that protects the privacy and dignity of workers. It’s also important to point out that a sample can only be collected with the express permission of that individual employee, however, employees who decline to provide samples will be subjected to disciplinary action or firing based on your drug testing policy.
Currently, urinalysis is the most common method of random drug testing, but oral fluid, or mouth swab drug testing is rapidly gaining momentum in industries not regulated by DOT (Department of Transportation) guidelines.
Why are random drug tests performed?
Essentially, random drug are performed to ensure compliance with the internal drug policies of organizations. Drug-free environments can demonstrably increase the productivity of companies through the immediate reduction in absenteeism and medical costs. It can also improve staff morale and workplace safety. The latter factor is even more important for high risk occupations involving machines, commercial vehicles and harmful chemicals. Owing to its random nature, the tests act as a powerful deterrent for any illegal use of drugs. Surprisingly, they also serve as an effective excuse against peer pressure outside of the workplace and schools.
Is random drug testing even legal?
There is currently no comprehensive federal law governing random drug test for the private sector, with the exception of safety-sensitive workers, such as
- Pilots and commercial bus and truck drivers – mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Workers in nuclear power plants – mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
- Defense contractors – mandated by the Department of Defense
Every state in the country has clear provisions in their respective constitutions permitting random drug tests for private sector employees–provided potential employees are informed of an employer’s drug testing policy. It’s important that potential employees fully understand their employer’s drug free workplace policy to avoid serious consequences, such as getting fired.
For students, the legality of drug tests in schools was settled in 2002 when the U.S. Supreme Court sided in favor of the Tecumseh Oklahoma School District in the Board of Education v. Earls case. The Supreme Court decreed that the school district’s decision to conduct random drug test is constitutional, and is geared towards detecting and preventing illicit drug use among students. While some have disagreed with the ruling, it is considered a landmark case. Schools can and do conduct random drug testing. It’s equally important that students understand these laws and also what it means to be a drug free institution. The consequences students face are serious. Random drug testing can result in students being expelled and, or removed from a sports team.