How to Implement a Drug and Alcohol Test Policy

January 24, 2018

Drug Testing Articles


How to Implement a Drug and Alcohol Test Policy

Keeping the workplace drug free helps create a safe environment for all employees. We’ll explain how you can implement a new drug and alcohol test policy.

Having a poorly implemented drug testing policy could be causing 50% of your potential candidates to walk away during the hiring process.

While you may think that you want to be able to weed out problem candidates, there could be medical reasons why someone might fail. Before you implement a drug and alcohol test policy at your workplace, consider all of the factors.

State and federal laws are constantly changing lately, with some states allowing recreational use of drugs that the federal government considers dangerous. In the context of your company, it could also be dangerous to have people operating machinery or driving while under the influence.

If you want to figure out how to implement a new drug and alcohol test policy, you must first understand the 4 major types of testing that are available.

1. Pre-Employment Tests

For some positions, it might be necessary to test all applicants before they can be considered for hiring. This usually follows the interview and screening process. It’s customary for employers to tell prospective employees in advance.

If you are operating a business that is known to necessitate strict policies, like working on government or industrial contracts, employees will have a clue. Just make sure that you’re not violating any local laws regarding privacy by asking employees to supply samples.

Get to know the types of test kits that are available so that you know what you can be and should be looking for.

2. Random Testing

There are lots of employers who find it useful to implement random drug testing. They are meant to come unannounced without employees expecting them. In these cases, employees are in a database and randomly selected.

If employees feel targeted, you could be violating labor laws. There are electronic systems to automate this process to ensure the selection is truly random. Random drug testing offers a strong deterrent to drug use by employees.

Because of the equal chance for all employees to be selected, most employees will abstain completely for the sake of keeping their jobs. It can feel a little draconian if you introduce policies that lead to immediate termination. Positive test results should give employees the option to seek counseling and submit continued testing.

3. “For Cause” Testing

If there was an incident caused by an employee where it’s possible they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this could call for a test. Multiple unexcused absences or chronic lateness is one signal. Another is if performance seems especially impacted by drug or alcohol use.

While it can be tricky to confront employees about this, HR should speak with the employee before administering a drug and alcohol test. Employees should be given the option to seek help for themselves if there’s been no extremely dangerous incident to report.

Be sure that you’re always being respectful of employees’ personal lives and information. Casting judgment can escalate any issues with employees. Make sure you always frame the issue as protecting the company.

4. “Post-Accident” Testing

Following many on-site accidents, especially in commercial and industrial environments, it’s customary for insurance companies to request a test. A drug and alcohol test is usually given to any driver of a vehicle or machine on a site and anyone involved in an accident.

While it could have been caused by negligence, insurance companies will often look for a way to avoid payment. This could be through finding fault in employees through positive drug test results.

Implementing Your Policy

Before you start running tests and implementing your new policy, it’s important that you think about how you want to go about introducing it.

As stated above, every state has a different approach to drug and alcohol policy. Some are more protective of employees’ personal lives while others are more protective of employers.

Here are 5 things to think about when implementing your drug and alcohol test policy

1. It’s Not Always Legal

While you might take every measure to keep your employees’ private information secure, it may not matter how discreet you intend to be. Testing employees for drugs and alcohol might violate local laws.

In some states, you need to have suspicion before testing and even then you could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Be sure that you know the laws before you introduce your policy.

2. Following Injuries Can Be Tricky

Testing after an injury is difficult. Your employees might be on medication that had an interaction that led to an injury. They may be on medication following the injury.

Regardless of your suspicions, you should provide medical help to anyone who is injured. Have a policy that’s in place as soon as possible and have employees sign a form proving that they’ve been briefed on the policy.

3. Are You Testing For Drugs That Are Legal?

As recreational marijuana becomes legal in several states, and medical marijuana is used in even more states, get to know whether you should test for pot. You don’t need to just kick back and give in to employees who use medical marijuana but get to know the nuances.

There are medications that might show up during a drug test but which don’t provide any of the highs of smoked marijuana. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you could interpret results wrong.

4. Alternatives To Testing

Just because you suspect someone may be on drugs, you don’t necessarily need to submit them to a test. Have your HR department or their supervisor sit down with them and talk.

Perhaps there is a personal issue they need counseling for. Causing them to lose their job could be damaging to their life and send them spiraling. For everyone’s best interest, try talking first.

5. Make Standards And Stick To Them

When an employee’s test comes back positive, you need a plan in place. You need to follow that plan for every employee, no matter what.

While you may want to offer a two-strike policy, you can’t bend that policy or you could open yourself up to lawsuits.

Implementing A Drug And Alcohol Test Policy Must Be Nuanced

Take your time when you’re implementing new policies. You’ll inevitably encounter pushback from longtime employees, whether or not they would fail the test.

They could have privacy concerns, so be sure you’re being fair, open to questions, and secure with their information.

If you have more questions about how to implement a drug testing solution for your company, check out our frequently asked questions.

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