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What Your Boss Wants To Know About Workplace Drug Testing

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Most businesses put workplace drug testing in place because of a recent incident on the job. There may have been rumors of employees using drugs or suspicious behavior. There may have been paraphernalia found on company property. Regardless of the reason, you need to answer these questions before you start drug testing employees. This will reduce your company's exposure to risk and liability. Your boss will thank you for doing the research. 

Is workplace drug testing legal?

Yes. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires federal contractors and grantees to establish drug-free workplaces. This includes drug testing. Shortly after the act was put in place, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued rules to establish drug-free workplaces. Ever since then, many private sector employers have implemented drug testing. Court decisions have supported the rights of all employers to drug test employees. Employers have stayed on the safe side by modeling their policies after the Federal standards. 

As long as you're taking adverse action against employees, your business has a legal risk. For example, an employee may make an unemployment claim if you fire them for testing positive for drugs. To mitigate this risk, it's important to have a written workplace drug testing policy

Your workplace drug testing policy should outline the rules your business should follow for employment drug testing. It should also include employee's prohibited behavior and disciplinary action. Make sure your drug testing policy meets the Federal and state laws on workplace drug testing.   

What are the advantages of workplace drug testing?

A 2011 SHRM survey uncovered some interesting advantages. Half of the respondents reported lower employee absenteeism rates after implementing drug testing. Also, half reported lower workers' compensation claims. One out of five businesses experienced higher productivity rates. Sixteen percent of businesses saw a decrease in turnover rates.  

  • Lower absenteeism
  • Lower workers' compensation claims
  • Higher productivity 
  • Decrease in turnover

A 2010 article written by The Journal Of Global Drug Policy And Practice included specific examples. The owner of Warner Plumbing estimated a $385,000 savings in compensation and insurance premiums. With the reduced turnover, the company saved at least $20,000 on personnel advertising and hiring cost per year. As you can see, there is a cost-benefit to workplace drug testing. But, everyone has a budget so, what's the bottom line?

How much does drug testing cost?

It varies. The average price range for a urine drug test is between $30-$60. It's also going to depend on a lot of factors such as the testing methodologies and the service providers you contract with. Alternative testing samples such as hair and oral fluid pricing will go up from there. 

Beware of a la carte drug test pricing. For example, a positive drug test price that is higher than a negative drug test. This is a nightmare for accounts payable because it's difficult to reconcile. We prefer packaged or flat rate pricing. Also, look out for excessive administration fees. These can add up fast. For example, a fee for every employee you have on record. 

For random drug testing, a cost hack is to join a consortium. A consortium allows your employees to be randomly selected at a lower testing rate. You can also get drug test discounts for joining a larger testing pool. 

When should you drug test applicants and employees?

The six most common reasons when to drug test employees are:

  • Pre-employment
  • Random
  • Post-accident
  • Reasonable Suspicion/For Cause
  • Return-to-duty
  • Follow-up

These are modeled after the DOT agency's regulations. For private sector employers, you have a fair amount of latitude when it comes to drug testing. Just make sure these are outlined in your drug testing policy. Other reasons include blanket testing, probationary, pre-promotion, and return-after-illness. 

Businesses that put in place workplace drug testing have experienced reduced absenteeism rates and a decrease in worker's compensation rates. They've also experienced increased production rates and a decrease in employee turnover rates. It seems clear that the advantages of drug testing far outweigh the costs. Keep in mind that drug testing is only one part of a drug-free workplace program. Successful programs integrate drug testing with employee education, supervisor training, and employee assistance.  

For a more comprehensive guide, check out Drug-Free Workplace - A Human Resources Guide. 

1600 Last modified on Thursday, 04 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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