Drug Screening

People who use illegal substances are not only breaking the law, they can be a liability to your company. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that drug use costs employers an estimated $75 – $100 billion per year. And since about 73 percent of drug users are employed, you may have one in your workplace. You can expect attendance, performance, and behavior to be poor from drug users. The best deterrent is to implement a policy to drug screen every new employee. Once you earn the reputation of being an employer who drug-screens applicants, the users won't even apply.

Contact an occupational health facility in your area and ask the office manager for a tour and an explanation of their pre-employment drug-testing program. Urine testing is the most commonly used practice and the least expensive, but blood and hair testing are also available. Inquire about the chain of custody that is used for the handling of the urine, how long it takes to receive results, and how you will be notified. You can expect to receive results within twenty-four to forty-eight business hours. The facility should be clean and make you feel comfortable. Look for a staff that is friendly and responsive. Think of it as a reflection on your company and what the perception will be from your applicants.

Before scheduling an applicant for a drug screen, have him sign a consent form that states that he understands that an offer of employment is contingent upon passing the test. A sample employment-offer letter that doubles as a consent form may be found in Appendix A.

A drug screening is paid for by you, the employer. For your convenience, find an occupational medical facility that is willing to bill you for services. When you send an applicant for a drug screen, he is not yet an employee and you are under no obligation to reimburse him for mileage expenses.

To ensure that only approved job candidates are screened, there should be a procedure set in place between you and the screening facility. Normally, you will need to call in and let the facility know that an applicant is coming. Additionally, the job candidate may need to bring in something signed by you to authorize the visit and give permission to bill the company for the charges.

Inform applicants that they will need to bring proof of identification with them to the appointment. In most states, anyone under the age of eighteen is required to have a parent with them to give consent. Find out from the testing facility what the applicant needs to do to prepare himself for the test. If it is a urine test, they may have to have a full bladder. Blood or hair tests may also have preliminary requirements.

You should receive test results in writing. If an applicant fails the drug screen, you may be informed of which drug was found in his system, but you do not need to give him the details. This is news that they should hear directly from the drug-screening facility. Your role is to simply arrange for the screening and determine whether or not the candidate is eligible for employment after receiving the results. Simply let the applicant know that he failed the drug test and you are pursuing other candidates.

A written drug-screen policy should clearly state who will be drug tested and when. You may choose to screen new hires only, or you may also screen employees before returning from a leave of absence, immediately after a work-related injury, at random, annually, or for probable cause. Valid reasons for probable cause could include witnessed participation of drug or alcohol use, slurred speech or staggered walking, or a noticeable negative change in work performance. As always, check with your state labor laws to ensure that you are not breaking any rules.

An employee who will be drug and alcohol screened for probable cause should not be allowed to drive herself to the testing facility. Call a taxi or have a manager or human resource representative transport the employee.

Post-accident drug and alcohol testing may reduce your overall workers' compensation expenses. If a policy is in effect to drug screen all employees who are injured on the job, those who test positive for drugs or alcohol in their system may be ineligible for workers' compensation benefits. Check with your state workers' compensation board for the legalities.

There may be strict guidelines for random drug testing, and a written policy must be in effect prior to testing anyone. Before considering this, check and see if it is allowed in your state and follow the legal procedures carefully. See Chapter 17 for procedures on implementing a drug-free policy.

If random drug testing will take place, set the criteria for how often it will occur — monthly, quarterly, biannually, yearly, etc. The employees selected at random should be picked by the drug-testing facility. This will encourage workers to remain drug free all year and will catch those who stayed away from drugs only during the period they were seeking employment.

Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and eligible for the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The ADA applies to employers with a staff of fifteen or more. Find out if the FMLA applies to your company in Chapter 12. If a worker comes to you to report that he is an alcoholic or recovered drug addict, he may be protected and may not be disciplined or released from his job because of his situation. However, employers may still take action if the employee reports to work under the influence or hung over. Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol is by no means permission to break company drug or alcohol policies and normal disciplinary actions still apply. Check into the legal guidelines in your state to ensure that you handle the situation properly.

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