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The Facts about Workplace Drug Testing


employ1The Small Business Administration further determined that employees with substance use issues cost their employers an average of $7,000 annually.

Sixty-five percent of all accidents on the job are related to drugs or alcohol, and employees who abuse substances cause 40 percent of on the job injuries.

The workers with a high rate of illicit drug use include construction workers, sales personnel, food preparation, wait staff, bartenders, handlers, helpers, laborers, and machine operators and inspectors.

For the many benefits of a drug-free workplace, more private sector employers have implemented drug testing as a cost effective means to eliminate harmful and unproductive employees, and stop these figures from trickling to their work environment.

Basic testing, which screens for amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine, usually runs between $50 and $100 and includes sample collection, laboratory analysis and communication of results. Extended testing for barbiturates, benzodiazepines, ethanol, hallucinogens and inhalants is also available.

Most employers engage in pre-employment testing, but there are also random or annual testing, post accident testing and reasonable suspicion testing.

While drug testing helps employers avoid making or retaining bad human resources investments, employers must be careful about how they enforce drug-testing policies or they may find themselves in violation of privacy rights.

Outside of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows people certain protections, drug testing is mostly a state law issue. Many states don’t have testing laws, but California is one of the few to define justification for substance abuse testing.

California’s state constitution protects the privacy rights of both public and private workers, and substance testing can be considered an intrusion of an individual’s privacy in some cases. In California, testing is justified in only “very limited and strictly defined circumstances.” In order to legally test workers and applicants, an employer must be able to cite an important need for the test and adhere to specific limitations.

Pre-employment testing is typically the most valid. Most employers are allowed to screen an applicant as a condition of employment, but only after a job offer has been made and before the applicant is added to the payroll. If you engage in pre-employment drug testing it is important that you do it indiscriminately as part of the hiring process for all employees.

Some employers have written policies that require employees to take random or annual drug tests, but California generally does not support random testing of workers whose job duties don’t impact public safety. In recent years, this has enabled many workers to file lawsuits against employers who illegally requested testing. Only workers with positions sensitive to public safety can be tested regularly.

If you plan to engage in any random or annual testing I would make sure that you have a written drug and alcohol policy that specifies the reasons for it, what positions are considered “sensitive,” what the procedures are and the possible outcomes to a failed test.

Reasonable suspicion testing is typically upheld only if employers have some type of factual, objective evidence that indicated drug or alcohol abuse, such as appearance, behavior, physical symptoms and inconsistent job performance.

This type of testing requires investigation and it is extremely important that personnel carrying out the procedure is trained to identify what constitutes testing and follows written policies to a tee. Policies should specify what gives the employer a legitimate reason to request a drug test.

Drug testing after serious on-the job accidents is also permitted if an employer has valid reason to believe employees responsible for the accident were under the influence and there is a link between the two. Again, an employer must have evidence to justify the test.

If an applicant or worker fails, or refuses to take a drug test (in most cases you cannot force individuals to submit to drug testing), an employer may reserve the right to terminate, refuse hire, demote or deny promotion, but only if the testing is done in accordance with state laws. An employer may also be able to deny unemployment, worker’s compensation or disability benefits.

Setting up drug testing for applicants and existing workers is fairly easy and can be done on the same day. There are dozens of test facilities throughout the Inland Empire that offer urine, hair and saliva testing. Find a test lab near you at or

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1 Comment

  1. Tom Fulmer says:

    Great information to consider. I see the link above is which does not connect to anything so go to for additional questions relating to drug testing or drug free workplace policies. Also National Drug Screening now offers eCCF or Electronic ordering of BOTH DOT and nonDOT drug screens so no more 5 part paper forms.

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