Drug Testing Policy
Drug testing programs can be valuable tools for deterring drug use, preventing drug-related incidents, and reducing associated risks. Some employees may view them as intrusive, but some employers are required to administer them by state and federal laws. Thoughtful and targeted construction of a program is critical for ensuring compliance, effectiveness, and employee privacy. In the instance of a positive test, employers have many considerations. Legal, prescription drug use can yield a positive result on a drug test and may be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These cases may require workplace accommodations. In the case of confirmed illegal drug use, employers should consider offering employees a chance to access treatment and initiate their recovery as opposed to immediate termination. Employers should also be advised of differences between tests indicating immediate impairment on the job and tests that indicate past use. When developing a drug testing program, there are many components that should be considered:
Time of Administration
Drug testing can be implemented at multiple points in employment: pre-employment, random, post-accident, when there is suspicion of influence, or as part of an annual physical. Employers should consider keeping drug testing frequency at the minimum required to ensure safety.
Test and Result Processing
Where drug tests are carried out and who evaluates them are critical components to protecting employers and employees both in testing efficacy and in case of legal challenges. Laboratories processing drug test results should be certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or a state agency. After results are processed, they should be evaluated by a medical review officer (MRO). Receipt and processing of results must be conducted within the same agency.
Drug Panels Tested
Many different drug panels exist. A drug testing panel indicates the number of substances that are being tested for and can range from five to 12. Employers should consider their industry and applicable laws, regional drug use patterns, and workplace culture when deciding how comprehensive a drug testing panel should be.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Drug test results must be carefully protected. They should be handled either by an EAP or designated employee who is well trained in the company’s confidentiality protocols, as well as relevant regulations. Records for all drug tests and their corresponding justification should be securely maintained in employees’ medical files, not personnel files. Additionally, employees should have access to their drug test results.
Some industries may be required to implement a Drug Free Workplace Program which incorporates specific guidelines for workplace drug testing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides general guidance on this program at www.samhsa.gov/workplace/toolkit.