Tackling Truths and Myths About Workplace Drug Testing
Workplace drug testing occurs when employers test potential or current hires for the usage of drugs or alcohol in the workplace. Blood, urine, saliva, and hair tests can be run to detect the presence of many different substances in the system. Some tests reflect only recent usage, while others can detect usage over a longer period of time. Federal positions, as well as jobs in specific regulated industries, require employees to pass drug screens, but private employers can choose for themselves whether or not to implement drug testing programs. Drug testing laws vary from state to state, so any employer wishing to use drug tests to protect their workplace must check their local regulations carefully.
The following is a look at several important truths and myths about workplace drug testing.
- Employers choose to conduct employment and pre-employment drug testing because they’ve been proven to improve workplace safety, efficiency, performance, and morale.
- Employees who work while impaired pose significant risks to their employers.
- Employers have legal rights to screen candidates as part of the application process and to randomly screen current employees.
- Employers are legally allowed to administer drug tests if there is a reasonable suspicion of impairment or substance use.
- Urine tests are the most common drug test method for employers. Urine tests are also the only approved tests for federally mandated drug testing.
- Positive screens are followed up by confirmation tests to eliminate the risk of false positives.
- Reasonable suspicion tests are most commonly conducted following workplace accidents, injury, or property damage. In addition, supervisors are trained to recognize the signs of impairment, so they can recommend testing when necessary.
- Random drug screening involves placing employees into a testing “pool” and selecting test subjects indiscriminately. Random tests are effective because they prevent users from preparing for a test.
- Employees who test positive can lose their jobs or be referred to a substance abuse program before returning to work.
- Written policies outlining the drug testing program and consequences for violations are an important component of every successful workplace drug program.
- No impact on safety. Many people assert that drug testing has little to no impact on workplace safety, but the evidence against this assertion is substantial. By every measure, employee drug testing has been shown to improve safety across the board.
- Drug tests are too sensitive to marijuana. Another common myth is that marijuana can be picked up on drug tests months or years after usage, making tests that include marijuana meaningless with regards to current usage. This is simply not true. Marijuana only stays in the system for about 3 to 7 days; tests will only pick it up within a week or so of use.
- You can’t cheat on a drug test. Sadly, this is not true. Creative users have found many ways to beat drug tests. Employers should work with professional testing labs to have the best shot at obtaining honest, accurate results.
- Drug tests regularly return false positives. While it’s true that occasional false positives do occur, they simply aren’t as common as this myth would have you believe. And, since positive tests are routinely subjected to a second, more stringent confirmation test, false positives rarely have a negative impact on employment.
The Bottom Line
Talk to your screening professional to learn more about drug testing in the workplace.