Do I Really Need a Drug and Alcohol Test Policy?

words defining policy for drug and alcohol test policy

Businesses regulated by the federal government already have a comprehensive drug and alcohol test policy.

What about non-regulated businesses? Where does drug and alcohol testing come into play? Is it necessary? Or is it worth it?

Drug & Alcohol Use in America

According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 1 in 5 people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past year. Most of those – 43.5 million – used marijuana. 139.8 million Americans aged 12 or older were past month alcohol users; 67.1 million were binge drinkers and 16.6 million were heavy drinkers.

Substance Abuse Costs

The financial burden companies face because of substance abuse is heavy. Studies show employees impaired by drug and alcohol use sustain or cause more injuries and miss work more than others. Besides productivity costs, worker’s compensation and health insurance premiums rise with increasing claims. Drug and alcohol abuse among employees also contribute to low morale in the workplace. Other employees must pitch in to complete jobs another should have done but couldn’t because of substance abuse issues. Check out these sobering statistics:

Costs of substance abuse treatment

In 2016, the Surgeon General released a report on alcohol, drugs, and health. It estimated the U.S. spends about $35 billion a year to treat substance use disorders and another $85 billion to treat illness and injuries related to substance abuse.

Effect at work

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that employees using and abusing drugs and alcohol miss about two times more days annually than typical workers for illness, injury or reasons other than vacation or holidays. An estimated $25.5 billion is lost in productivity and absenteeism.

The turnover rate among those using and abusing drugs and alcohol is high. According to the NSC, of workers currently employed, 25% of them report they’ve had more than one employer in the past year. Turnover is expensive. It takes about 21% of their pay to replace them.

Cost/Benefit of drug testing

Drug and alcohol testing programs serve to filter out users and discourage use in the workplace. Drug tests are typically less than $75 each – a very small investment in creating a drug-free workplace. The cost of drug testing is minimal compared to the costs without it.

Creating a Drug & Alcohol Test Policy

Before you jump into testing, develop a clear drug and alcohol test policy to ensure fair treatment. If an employee believes discrimination takes place because you require some to test and not others, you could face legal action. The same is true if you don’t give employees advanced notice of your testing policy or policy changes.

Ask yourself the following questions before creating your drug and alcohol test policy:

  • What are your drug and alcohol testing objectives?
  • What is your state law regarding marijuana products? What will you allow?
  • Will you subject employees to random drug and alcohol testing? If so, how often?
  • Will you require applicants to submit to a drug and alcohol test as a condition of employment?
  • Where will drug and alcohol testing take place? Onsite or at a clinic?
  • Will you require drug and alcohol testing after a workplace accident (check OSHA guidelines to help you understand the why and when to test after accidents)
  • How will you handle a suspicion of drug or alcohol use?
  • What substances will you test for?
  • What will you do if someone tests positive?
  • What will you do if someone refuses to test?
  • What jobs, if any, are excluded from drug and alcohol testing?

What will you do if an employee tests positive? Is that automatically cause for termination? That’s up to you. However, employees with known substance abuse issues are protected by law from discrimination. Including pre-employment drug and alcohol testing in your policy helps avoid that issue. Lobdock Impairment Detection helps employers navigate these questions to create an effective drug and alcohol testing policy.


What Types of Drug and Alcohol Tests Should I Include in My Policy?

Clearly state in your drug and alcohol test policy how and why you ask employees or applicants to submit to drug screening. There are several reasons to ask employees to submit to a drug or alcohol test:

Pre-Employment Testing

Check your state’s laws about when you may ask an applicant to submit to a drug and alcohol test. Most applicants take a pre-employment drug test after receiving an offer of employment. Employment is conditional upon the results of the test. You must tell the applicant in advance of your pre-employment drug testing policy and the consequences of a positive test.

Random Testing

Some federal agencies, like the Department of Transportation, require companies regulated by them to run a random drug testing program. Random drug testing is important for those working in safety-sensitive positions.

But remember, the point of a random drug testing program is not to catch drug users.  A random drug testing program exists to DETER substance abusers from working for you in the first place.

Whether regulated by the federal government or not, if you choose to run a random program, it must truly be random. You must choose a random selection process, such as a computer program, that randomly selects those to be tested.

All employees must have an equal chance of being selected, even if they were recently selected. The employee should have no advance notice of the test. Hiring a third party administrator (TPA), like Lobdock Impairment Detection, to run your random drug testing program saves you time and decreases your risk of discrimination liability.

Lobdock runs random testing programs for businesses in many different industries. We notify you of the random selection and you send them to test. Easy. One 10 minute call is all it takes to set it up. 405-822-0553

Post-accident or Post-incident Testing

Post-accident testing determines whether drugs or alcohol were involved and relieves you, the employer, from some of the liability. Worker’s compensation benefits aren’t paid to an injured employee who tested positive for drugs or alcohol use. Your drug and alcohol testing policy should clearly state the terms of post-accident testing.

A well-written policy establishes objective criteria for how and when testing will occur. Will you test for every accident or only those that involve injury or death? Is there a property damage minimum or does any damage require testing? These are your decisions to make, but your policy must clearly state your criteria.

Reasonable Suspicion or For Cause Testing

If you believe an employee is working under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have a right to ask them to submit to a drug test. However, there are specific conditions required before you accuse someone of using.

You must have reasonable suspicion or cause based on direct observation by a supervisor or another employee. These can include physical evidence, patterns of erratic or abnormal behavior, disorientation or confusion, or an inability to perform routine tasks. Your suspicions need to be documented and your conversation must be private. Speak with compassion rather than accusation. Remind your employee that a refusal to test is the same as a positive test and what consequences follow.

Lobdock offers Reasonable Suspicion Training classes to help managers understand how to approach an employee and properly document observances. Call 405-822-0553 for more information.

Sign up for our e-newsletter for tips and news and get our FREE Reasonable Suspicion Confrontation Planner.

Return-to-Duty Testing

If your business is federally regulated, you are required to send employees who have previously tested positive for drug or alcohol use to substance abuse training. Once they complete that training and their return-to-duty drug test returns negative, they may return to work.

You are free to decide how you handle employees who test positive for drug and alcohol use. You are legally allowed to terminate them unless you hired them knowing they had a substance abuse problem.  You may determine it’s beneficial for your company to help that employee get well and return to work. Your drug and alcohol testing policy should include that their return-to-duty test must be negative for drugs and alcohol before they return.

Follow-up Testing

Employees testing negative for drug and alcohol use on a return-to-duty test should submit to follow-up testing. If you are not federally regulated, you decide how often and when, but it must be clearly stated in your policy.

Periodic Testing

This is typically done at consistent times throughout the year, often in conjunction with annual physicals.

Types of Drug & Alcohol Tests

There are a variety of ways to test employees and applicants for drug and alcohol use.

Urinalysis drug testing

This shows the presence of drugs for days or weeks after the effects of the drug have worn off. The detection window can vary widely based on the specific drug.

Saliva drug testing

A mouth swab is used to collect saliva or oral fluids from inside the mouth.

Hair Follicle drug testing

Hair testing determines past drug use, often up to 90 days after use. Technicians cut 100 strands of hair close to the scalp to test for the presence of drugs near the follicle.

Blood drug testing

Blood is rarely drawn for employment testing. A blood test detects amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.

Breath Alcohol drug tests

BATs only show current levels of impairment or intoxication. Alcohol can usually be detected by a breathalyzer for about an hour after drinking, depending on the type of drink and size of the person.

What Substances Should I Ban in My Drug and Alcohol Test Policy?

According to guidelines from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), you should screen for:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines (meth, speed, crank, ecstasy)
  • Cocaine (coke, crack)
  • Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust)
  • THC (cannabinoids, marijuana, hash)

Most choose either a 5-panel or 10-panel test. Whichever you choose, you must be consistent when you select people for drug testing.

What Type of Drug Test Should I Require in My Drug and Alcohol Test Policy?

DOT regulations require a 5-panel test.

A 5-panel test detects:

  • THC (marijuana/cannabis)
  • Cocaine
  • PCP (phencyclidine)
  • Opiates (codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, heroin)
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine

If you aren’t regulated by a federal agency, you get to decide what drugs are prohibited. A Third Party Administrator (TPA), like Lobdock, can help you decide and determine what test you should require. Whatever you decide, you must clearly define it in your drug and alcohol testing policy and test consistently to avoid discrimination. You should know that some prescription medications result in a positive test result. Your employee or applicant should disclose if they’re taking prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medications. If a drug test returns a positive result, a medical review officer (MRO) will contact the donor for proof of valid prescriptions and prescriber information.

CBD: Should I Allow it if it’s Legal in My State?

Those working in safety-sensitive positions regulated by the federal government are prohibited from using THC and CBD products even if it’s legal in their state. Although CBD is legal in some states, some CBD products could have traces of THC and may be detected on a drug test. A positive drug test could result in loss of job or career. To learn more about CBD in the workplace, read “Legalized Drugs and Workplace Safety.” Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you have to accept it. States give employers guidance on how to handle marijuana use among employees.

Employer Rights

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for your employees. You have a right to require a drug-free environment.

As long as you remain true to your policy and don’t discriminate through drug and alcohol testing, you can run a successful program. We recommend you require employees to sign a document stating they’ve read and understand your policy.

You have a right to fire employees for engaging in illegal drug use, but your suspicion must be reasonable and documented and a drug test must be given. If you’re terminating an employee specifically for drug use, you must follow your specific protocol and be consistent. In states that permit employment at will, some employers choose to terminate simply for poor job performance without referencing suspicion of drug or alcohol use.

Employee Rights

Most states require that your employer presents drug testing policies to you in writing so everyone knows what to expect. As an employee, you must be notified of the methods, procedures and policies in detail. You also have a right to know the consequences of a positive drug and alcohol test. Drug and alcohol testing procedures must protect your privacy and results are confidential.

Implement a Drug and Alcohol Test Policy – It’s Worth It

As you can see, the benefits of drug testing far outweigh the costs. Creating the policy might be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. When you hire Lobdock as your TPA, you get experts to help you create your drug and alcohol testing policy. We also run random drug testing and provide the training you and your supervisors need to implement your policy. We’ll answer all your questions and help you keep your employees safe.

Call Lobdock at 405-822-0553 today so we can create your drug and alcohol test policy.
It’s worth it.

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