Drugs in the Workplace: Can You Fire Your Employees for Drug Use?

January 8, 2019

Drug Testing Articles


No employer wants drugs in the workplace, but what about employees that use drugs off the clock? What can you do about them? Click here to find out.

Drugs do not belong in a workplace as they can cause a host of problems, creating an unsafe and less productive environment. Cut and dry, no drugs in the workplace allowed.

However, things get a little more complicated when dealing with employees who use drugs in their spare time. Off the clock, some employees may drink excessively and/or use marijuana, cocaine, or other illicit drugs. A “their time their business” mentality can lead to company loss. How can you monitor employee drug use to keep your business running properly?

Keep reading to learn how employee drug use can impact your business and to learn how you can keep a handle on things.

Impact of Drugs in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol use leads to:

  • frequent lateness and absences
  • reduced production
  • reduced earning potential
  • illicit buying or selling of drugs on company grounds
  • theft
  • injury
  • early retirement or death

Let’s look at the statistics to see the significance.

How prevalent is employee drug use?

According to the National Safety Council, nearly one out of every 13 American employees suffers from alcoholism. This causes them to miss about 34% more days than their sober counterparts and creates an estimated $74 billion dollar annual loss for the united states business sector.

This organization also reports that an estimated 15.6% of employees suffer from a substance abuse problem creating a 17-18% drop in worker productivity. The prescription pill problem alone costs businesses approximately $25.6 billion to $53.4 billion a year.

With marijuana use on the rise, a study showed that almost 37 million Americans used marijuana in 2017. Meaning, you will most likely come across people who use pot.

Though research continues to find health and wellness benefits in this plant, users can still impact your business. Marijuana use impairs judgment, making physical and financial accidents more likely. The drug also tends to make users lazier and less productive.

How Do I Protect My Business?

Create a drug testing policy for new and existing employees. Then, choose a testing option that works for your company.

Testing Options

Let’s take a look at some of the options available to employers to help keep a safe and profitable work environment.

Urine Drug Tests

Urine screens can test for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, PCP, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and a list of other substances. Most employers across the country opt for the 5 Panel Drug test. The Federal government mandates this test in their drug testing guidelines.

It is a 5 panel urine drug test that detects 5 types of most commonly abused drugs. This test provides a cost-effective and accurate option. Though people often take measures to pass the drug test after using, you can implement measures to prevent this from happening.

All employers should consider using the 5 panel drug test. They can see if people used marijuana up to 6 weeks ago and other drugs days to weeks earlier.

Breath Tests

To prevent alcoholics from coming into work drunk, you may want to consider using alcohol breath tests when you smell alcohol on an employee. When a person breathes into the device, it will detect alcohol in their system and give an accurate reading of their current blood alcohol level.

The United States Department of Transportation mandates these tests. It ensures that none of the drivers operate vehicles under the influence. This not only protects everybody on the road, but also protects the company from a serious lawsuit in case of an accident.

You may want to consider using this type of test especially if your company runs any type of heavy equipment. Keep your worksite sober and safe.

Mouth Swab Tests

This type of drug and alcohol screen tests for the use of certain substances from hours to days prior. This test offers a less invasive option for screening your employees.

This test makes it extremely difficult for a person to produce a false result. However, a urine test detects marijuana use from about a month prior while this only detects weed for about a day.

Hair Follicle Drug Tests

This type of drug tests eliminates the ability for employees to quickly detox. It also tests back as far as 90 days. Washing, cutting, dying, or treating hair will not change this test result, making it extremely reliable.

This accuracy also costs much more than a standard urine test. Depending on the type of business you run, the price may be worth this type of accuracy.

Drug Use in the Workplace Laws

Knowing the detriment that employee drug use can cause your business probably makes you want to eliminate every threat. However, you cannot necessarily fire an addict.

How do you legally protect your company?

You may require all employees to pass a drug screen upon initial employment. If you provide a clearly documented policy indicating reoccurring drug testing upon hire, some states will allow surprise drug tests. Prospective and current employees do reserve the right to refuse, but you can consider that a failed test that results in non-hire or termination.

To create a clear policy that offenders cannot fight, state:

  • purpose for testing
  • a full list of prohibited substances
  • clear expectations regarding illegal and prescription drug use
  • an alcohol policy
  • addict and alcoholic employee rights
  • consequences of a failed drug screen
  • materials for substance abuse prevention

Cover your bases by creating a clause that allows you to test based off of suspicion as well. Also, you can take precautionary measures to prevent tampering. You may dye the toilet water or check the temperature of the urine to avoid false test results.

Unfortunately, dealing with substance abusers can also set you in a gray area. For instance, can you get fired for being an alcoholic?

Alcoholism and addiction fall under disabilities, so employees recovering from these ailments receive protection from the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, only if they sought treatment and continue to stay sober.

The rising legalization of marijuana also brings up a new predicament. As an employer, you need to keep up to date with the changing laws and keep the policy clear. Even in states that legalized marijuana, you may fire an employee for coming to work high, even if they use it with a prescription.

Failed Drug Tests

Sadly, some people will expect the test and still fail it. Federal employers must refer the employee assistance program and only fire if they do not comply. State and private business can decide which option works best for the business.

If your prospective or current employee fails their drug screen, you can:

  • decide not to hire them
  • suspend them
  • recommend treatment and set probation terms
  • fire them

Protect your business in a way that works for you.

Protect Your Business By Drug Testing

Nobody needs drugs in the workplace. Don’t wait for a costly accident or watch money fly out the window from lack of sober production. Get proactive!

Implement a clear and concise company drug policy and choose a test that suits your needs with accuracy and cost-effectiveness. Click here to find the right drug screen to protect your company.

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