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Drug-Free Workplace - Overview of Key Regulations

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Federal and state agencies regulate safety and security industries to implement a drug-free workplace. If your business isn't regulated, you're volunteering to have a drug-free workplace. In either case, never assume that you aren’t liable for any wrong doings. We won't cover every state and federal regulation but, we'll point you in the right direction.


This is Part 2 of the blog series, Drug-Free Workplace - A Human Resources Guide. If you want to read the full guide, use the nav below to start from the beginning. 


The terms ‘regulation’ and ‘law’ interchange but, they can refer to two distinct things. For the sake of simplicity both of these terms refer to rules that you must follow.

Federal Regulations

Always consider regulations that protect the basic civil rights of American workers. These include the ADA, FMLA, the Civil Rights Act, and the NRLA. ADA is the American with Disabilities Act. FMLA is the Family Medical Leave Act. NRLA is the National Labor Relations Act. 

Federal Workplace Drug and Alcohol Regulations

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 regulates some federal contractors and all federal grantees. These businesses must provide drug-free workplaces for receiving a contract from a federal agency. This includes federal grants to. Employers that are in safety and security sensitive industries are also regulated. They are subject to either the DOT, DOD, or NRC. DOT is the Department of Transportation. DOD is the Department of Defense. NRC is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Department of Transportation (DOT) Procedures Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs

The largest encompassing regulations are the DOT's. The DOT rules define procedures for conducting workplace drug and alcohol testing. These are Title 49 Transportation CFR Part 40. There's also the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. This formed the DOT agencies establishing the drug and alcohol testing regulations below:

To find out if your business is covered by the DOT regulations, use the “Am I Covered?” tool from ODAPC.

Department of Defense (DOD)

A federal contractor working in national security is subject to the DOD regulations. 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

NRC is an independent agency created by Congress. It regulates commercial nuclear power plants, fuel cycle facilities, uranium recovery sites, etc. 

Read more about the NRC Drug Testing Program FAQ’s.

State or Local Drug Testing Laws

Some states have regulations that local contractors must develop drug-free workplace policies. 

Good to know >> Sometimes, Federal and state regulations can contradict. Keep in mind that federal always supersedes state. 

Has your state legalized marijuana? Consider the state and local legislation related to the legalization of marijuana. Think about this when providing education to employees. Although it may be legal to use marijuana in a particular state, that might not affect a “no use” policy.

State Workers’ Compensation Laws

Some States offer employers with drug-free workplace programs benefits. This includes discounts on their workers’ compensation insurance premiums. For the same reasons, many states deny workers' compensation benefits to workers. These are cases where injuries were the result of substance use. State laws related to workers’ compensation change. The best way to get accurate information is to contact your state government.

State Unemployment Insurance Laws

Some states have laws and rules that may limit or deny unemployment benefits. This includes firing an employee because of a positive drug test. For example, New York State law stipulates that an employee may be “disqualified” from receiving benefits for “testing positive on a drug test or for using drugs and alcohol in violation of workplace policy.” Many other states have similar regulations. You can get more information about your state's rules from your state office of unemployment.

If you’re not getting any answers from your state government, visit statedrugtestinglaws.com. They're always on top of it. Be sure to identify the federal and state regulations that apply to your business. This will frame the policies and procedures for your drug-free workplace program. 

Continue to Five Steps To Creating A Successful Program

1683 Last modified on Friday, 05 January 2018
Hagen DeRouen

Co-founder & CEO at Screensoft. 5+ years experience with employment screening program management and guidance. Certifications including FCRA basic, MRO assistant, and professional collector trainer. 

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