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HR Benefits Of Drug Testing
Posted: Jan 30th, 2020 at 04:17PM
In SAMHSA’s 2018 survey , 11.7% of the U.S. population ages 12 and over admitted to using illegal drugs in the past month. And according to some estimates , as many as 74% of regular drug users are currently employed. This means that on any given day, approximately 18 million employees -- the people building our houses, teaching our children, caring for our sick, and sitting in the cubicle across from us -- are abusing drugs. That’s a real problem and one that needs to be addressed.
The latest data, from 2018, by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health , shows that an estimated 164.8 million people aged 12 or older in the United States (60.2 percent) were past-month substance users. Of those past month substance users in 2018, 139.8 million people reportedly drank alcohol, and 31.9 million people reported the use of an illicit drug. The majority of these individuals are in our nation’s workplaces – just waiting to become a risk or liability.
Thankfully, this isn’t an issue that employers are incapable of handling. Businesses can go far to combat the problem of drug abuse in the workplace by merely implementing a robust drug-testing program.
Benefits of Drug Testing
Here are just a few benefits for employers that implement effective drug testing programs:
Keeping Your Employees Safe
A significant number of workplace incidents involve the use of drugs or alcohol. While the Department of Transportation (DOT) has regulations that require testing of safety-sensitive employees, there are plenty of employees in non-regulated industries who could still injure their fellow coworkers. A company which proactively implements their own drug-testing program and screens their applicants prior to employment protects their work environment by significantly reducing the risk of hiring a regular drug user. Furthermore, a well-managed post-employment testing program, such as random drug testing, helps ensure that employees stay drug-free after they are hired.
Workplace safety is often the main reason for employee drug testing. Organizations that require employees to operate machinery, drive, work with customers, or conduct manual labor commonly require drug testing for the safety of everyone involved. Pre-employment and random drug testing is frequently administered to protect employees, as well as the general public, from ensuring that employees are working confidently and coherently.
Keep Your Customers Safe
The information age has brought business opportunities that could scarcely be imagined just a few decades ago. However, the same technology that has made this possible has also made it easier to produce unintended harm than ever before. A simple misclick and a sensitive email can go to the wrong customer. An unwary IT member can open a company up to a costly data breach. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to make sure every employee is fully alert and cognitive -- drug or alcohol abuse that goes under the radar is unlikely just to impact you; it’s going to affect your customers as well.
Companies often include their drug testing programs as another way to show their integrity to the public. The reputation of the organization may rely, in part, on its employees’ performance and professionalism. It is prevalent for companies to advertise that they have a comprehensive drug-testing program in place, to gain public trust and to attract consumers to their products and services.
Keeping Your Company Safe
According to Smart Business , employment lawsuits have risen over 400% in the past 20 years. Whether it’s for wrongful termination or a workplace incident, employee lawsuits can easily cost companies into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in liabilities. A comprehensive drug-testing program not only includes pre-employment testing to help vet for the right employees for your company, but it also consists of an effective process for reasonable suspicion testing. This means that if you have an employee who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, training and protocols can be implemented to test them and take appropriate action without opening the company up to legal vulnerabilities.
It Saves the Company Money
At first glance, drug testing may sound like just another added business expense. But in reality, an efficient drug-testing program oftentimes pays for itself many times over. Pre-employment drug testing improves employee retention rates. Drug-free employees are healthier and less likely to miss work unexpectedly. A drug-free workplace is a more productive workplace, and a more productive workplace is a more lucrative business. Several states also offer additional incentives for companies that implement drug testing programs, such as a reduction of their Workers’ Compensation insurance premiums, the ability to use a positive drug test to defeat or reduce Workers’ Compensation claim payouts, or to deny unemployment claims.
With the growing popularity of marijuana use, the nation’s opioid crisis combined with the history of illicit drug use in our country, if ever there was a time to have a comprehensive drug-testing program, that time is now. If you don’t already have a drug-testing program in place, do you, your customers, and your employees a favor by getting started on one today!
Since the 1980s, when drug testing first became widely used in our nation’s workplaces the value of drug testing has been hotly debated. Indeed, no reasonable thinking person would condone illegal drug use in the workplace; likewise, no one could deny that illicit drug use occurs at work or that off-duty use of illegal drugs has an impact at work.
The most common illicit substances that employers test for include: Amphetamines, Opiates, Barbiturates, Cannabinoids (Marijuana), Cocaine, Benzodiazepine, and Oxycodone (also including other synthetic opioids). In general, chemical dependence on these substances has been linked to serious workplace accidents, missed work, loss of production, increased insurance costs, theft and turnover, as well as more detrimental problems such as poor decision making and lower co-worker morale.
Perhaps the most impactful reason to establish an employee screening program is the obligation for employers to foster a safe and productive workplace. The central concept of safety is accepted across the nation in general, but also federal recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “General Duty Clause” which reads in part:
29 U.S. Code § 654 - Duties of employers and employees
(a) Each employer -
(1) shall furnish to each of his employee’s employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this chapter.
(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this chapter which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
Employers must carefully consider the pros and cons of establishing an employee drug testing program that is specific to their workplace. Most employers would agree that the pros far outweigh the cons. Ensuring a safe workplace must be considered as a top priority for any organization, and substance abuse testing is a crucial component.
When is Drug Testing Required?
There are instances that employee drug testing is a requirement for employers. Some examples of such situations are:
Department of Transportation (DOT) Testing
Companies that have employees conducting federally regulated and safety-sensitive work (truck drivers, bus drivers, pilots, boat captains, rail workers, etc.) MUST follow DOT drug & alcohol testing rules which include the screening of marijuana. Furthermore, the DOT has made it very clear that medical marijuana users are not exempt from federal DOT regulations.
State Benefits Programs
Several states offer benefits to employers who voluntarily comply with state workers’ compensation premium discount programs (Drug-Free Workplace Programs). To earn the incentives, the employer must comply with a very complex set of rules, including when to test, how to test and for what substances.
Companies that operate from a state or federal grant most likely must meet specific drug testing requirements, including the testing of marijuana, as a condition of the grant.
It is also often commonplace for contractors and subcontractors to require drug screening, whether by company policy, contract requirement, customer requirement, etc.
Several states have some form of law or rule that may require an employer to follow Federal (HHS/DOT) rules either in general or in specific circumstances.
Other industries, such as health care and education, may also require workplace drug testing, which in most cases, is regulated by each state.
When Does Drug Testing Occur?
A comprehensive employee drug testing program will include screening both pre-hire and post-hire. Employers should carefully consider when testing will take place and make sure the requirements are consistent throughout the company and or by job description.
The most common type of drug test is for pre-employment, conducted as a condition of future employment. Employers are recommended to require the drug test only after a formal job offer has been made.
Employers should conduct employee drug testing after an accident/incident to determine if drug use may have played a role. Employers are cautioned to require testing of all individuals who may have contributed to specific accident/incident.
Becoming even more critical with the rise in marijuana use, employers can require employee drug testing when illegal drug use is suspected. Employers are strongly encouraged to train their managers on how to accurately detect and handle reasonable suspicion situations effectively and on the dangers of drug abuse in the workplace. The details of each event should be thoroughly documented.
Often employers wish to establish a random employee drug testing program where a percentage of all employees are randomly screening throughout the year. This is an excellent deterrent to ensure employees remain drug-free beyond the standard pre-employment drug test. Employers are cautioned to ensure the random selection process is computer-based, documented, unbiased and spread out in an unpredictable pattern randomly throughout the year.
Those employees that fail an employee drug test, get treatment from a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) and are ready to return to the workplace may be required to submit a return-to-duty employee drug test.
A Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) may also subject an employee to follow up or ‘periodical’ testing as an additional treatment or recovery requirement.
Some employers elect to require employee drug testing as a condition of employment promotion.
Federal Laws, State Laws and Financial Benefits
Although no federal or state law prohibits drug testing, a number of states have unique requirements for companies wishing to conduct drug testing. Additionally, there may be drug testing requirements placed on private companies who secure government work.
There are other complexities to be considered. Notably, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with a history of substance abuse may qualify as having a disability, so a change in employment status based on drug testing results may be seen as discrimination. This is a growing issue with state-specific medical marijuana laws.
Employers must take extra caution to clearly understand the state and federal laws that specifically apply to their employee drug testing program. Federally regulated (DOT) testing programs have particular rules and regulations that must be followed. Several states throughout the US have mandatory drug testing laws, in which employers MUST follow if they wish to conduct employee drug testing.
These mandatory laws can be very general or can be incredibly detailed. One example, in Nevada, employers must follow the mandatory state law, which requires all drug tests to be analyzed by a licensed and qualified laboratory ( note: as of the new year, the state also has limitations on the screening for marijuana use). Pretty simple requirement to comply with using the appropriate laboratory. On the other hand, some states, such as Maine, have mandatory laws that specifically require a policy to be developed and then sent to the State for a review and approval before testing can take place (amongst many other specific requirements). Some states limit or prohibit particular testing method; some states restrict or prohibit when or how testing can take place, Some states detail what disciplines can be imposed in reaction to a positive drug test, other states require specific notices to be sent before and after employee drug testing is conducted.
Employers must make an effort to understand what rules apply to their program. Several states also offer financial incentives for employers who voluntarily comply with the state’s requirements. These benefits include the opportunity to reduce your workers’ compensation insurance premiums (through state Drug-Free workplace Programs), leveraging the Rebuttable presumption of intoxication defense to deny a workers’ compensation claim and to deny unemployment benefits for employees that fail a drug test. These benefits vary by state and have particular rules that must be followed to qualify for the benefit.
Nearly all workplaces have a mix of federally regulated or safety-sensitive employees and non-regulated or safety-sensitive employees. The drug testing requirements of these two employee groups must be considered.
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