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Common FAQs in Workplace Employee Drug Testing


Workplace drug testing is an important component of a drug-free workplace program. It is adopted by several workplaces for a variety of reasons; one of them is to prevent substance abuse among employers and employees.

Below are some frequently asked questions that will give you a general knowledge about the workplace drug testing program.

Why do workplaces implement employee drug testing?

The most important reason behind the implementation of employee drug testing is to ensure workplace safety and boost staff performance. Some organizations, particularly federal agencies, adopt an employee drug testing to comply with the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing.

When did the workplace drug testing in the United States begin?

There are existing information that drug testing in the United States began as a prevention strategy during the Vietnam War. However, it wasn’t until the late 1980s when the Federal Government expanded drug testing to workers in safety sensitive industries. In 1998, the Drug-free Workplace Act came to life, requiring some Federal contractors and all Federal grantees to agree that they will provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a Federal agency.

At present, many organizations, government and non-government agencies, are implementing a drug testing as part of their drug-free workplace policy. Organization that require drug testing to new and existing employees must adhere to existing federal and state laws to ensure fair labor practice.

How do workplaces ensure accurate drug test results?

Some employers who implement a drug testing policy are getting the services of reputable Third Party Administrator to help them administer the right drug testing in accordance to their organization’s drug testing policy. In some cases, confirmatory testing methods, such as GC/MC test, are used to ensure the accuracy of a positive result. Employers would also hire a Medical Review Officer (MOR) to assess the employees’ drug test results to validate accuracy.

Who should participate in the drug testing?

All new and existing employees may be required to undergo drug testing depending on the provisions of your organization’s drug testing policy. Employees in the transportation industry are also required to undergo drug testing under the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act to ensure safety during job operations.

Who will administer the drug test?

When an employee is sent to a collection site for drug testing, there are professional specimen collectors who are tasked to collect biological samples, such as blood, urine, saliva, or swear from the employee. A Certified Professional Collector must have full knowledge about the most common types of drug testing and how to administer them to ensure the safety of the donor, accuracy of the result, and cost-effective to the part of the employer.

What are the responsibilities of an organization that is covered by the Drug-Free Workplace Act?

The following are the responsibilities of an organization that is covered by the Drug-Free Workplace Act:

  • publish a written policy that will prohibit employers and employees to manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess drugs and other substances
  • clarify the necessary actions or penalties that will be imposed in case an individual violates the company’s drug-free workplace policy
  • establish a drug-free awareness program
  • make sure that every employee and new applicant receives a copy of the policy before its implementation.

What are some effective techniques to make a drug testing program work?

One way to make your drug testing program effective is by organizing activities, seminars, and workshops that will motivate your employees to comply with the your company’s drug-free workplace policy. Some organizations or workplaces step up their informative drive on drug abuse to help employers and employee understand the importance of following the drug testing policy.

What are the common types of drug tests?

The most common types of drug tests include urine test, saliva test, blood test, and hair follicle test. Each drug test follows the new federal cut-off level as mandated by the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program. Of the different drug testing methods available today, urine drug test is still the most commonly used method because of its accuracy and reliability.

What do the drug test kits screen?

Many commercially available drug test kits today screen highly abused illegal drugs in the United States, such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and amphetamine. There are also expanded drug test kits that can detect the presence of ethanol (alcohol), hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin), barbiturates, Methaqualone (Quaaludes), methadone, Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium), MDMA (ecstasy), propoxyphene (Darvon).

What are the important prohibitions upon the implementation of the drug testing policy?

The following are the things that a drug-free workplace should avoid doing:

  • Inconsistent implementation of the drug testing (i.e. the schedule for drug testing is not strictly followed)
  • Disclosure of the drug test result to other employees inside the workplace.
  • Imposing immediate penalties to an individual who tested positive on drugs during the initial screening.
  • Trusting laboratories that are not accredited by a drug test program.
  • Confronting a convicted individual who is still under the influence of drugs, which can lead to criminal assault.
  • Allowing an impaired employee to drive home alone.

When should an organization conduct employee drug testing?

If you’re planning to implement a drug testing policy in your workplace, make sure that the policy states the kinds of drug testing that will be implemented. Similarly, it should state whether you’re only doing it during pre-employment stage or whether you’re also going to perform random drug test. Companies may also conduct drug testing as part of the annual physical test, follow ups after a treatment, after an accident, or whenever there is a reasonable suspicion.

Who pays for the drug test?

The payment for drug testing may vary depending on the exiting state laws, city code, and Federal law. For instance, in New York drug testing is considered as a part of medical exam which is usually covered by the employer. In Idaho, employers cover for the drug test if the result is negative but if the result is positive, the employee pays for the drug test. You should review your city code and state laws to make sure you’re not illegally billing your employees for a drug test.

What are the possible consequences when an employee is found positive through the drug test?

Employees who are caught positive with drugs through drug testing may face the possibility of being expelled or suspended from work. In some cases, the company will refer the employee to substance abuse professional for assessment and treatment recommendations. Other consequences that an employee may face include completing a rehabilitation program, continuing care, and follow-up testing for a certain period of time. If the situation is severe or depending on the demands of the company, the person’s professional license may be void, such as in the case of public transport drivers.

Are there any legal rights for the employee who tests positive?

Employees who participate in a workplace drug testing program have the right to access their results. The consequences imposed on employees with confirmed positive drug test results differ from state to state. Some drug test policy requires an employee to be given the opportunity to participate in rehabilitation programs; other policy indicates that an employee who successful completes a rehabilitation program is entitled to return to his previous job with full pay and benefits.

Everything that goes between the company and the employee who tests positive must be kept with the highest confidentiality.

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