Workplace drug testing, both pre-employment and randomly, has become more and more prevalent among US and UK employers. It is important therefore that both employers and employees are aware of the politics and rights involved.
Why Employers implement Workplace Drug Testing
Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs an employee’s ability to make rational judgments; it can lead to reckless or dangerous behavior, raise safety concerns and reduce productivity. Employers therefore have a right to demand that no one comes to work intoxicated or under the influence of any kind of drugs.
Workplace drug tests check for illegal drug use by employees, either before an employee begins work or regularly throughout their tenure. Some of the most commonly tested drugs include: Alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, and heroin.
A workplace drug testing policy discourages employees from abusing substances while at work. A job applicant drug testing program prevents those with a problem of drug or alcohol abuse from ever being hired.
In the US, many Workers’ Compensation discount programs now require that a workplace implements a drug testing policy in order to take advantage of their benefits; it may also be needed in order to comply with Federal and State regulations. Drug testing here of employees may also occur after a workplace accident or to ascertain the viability of an employee returning to duty.
While drug testing can be performed by taking small samples from saliva, blood, hair or even fingernails, the most common way to perform workplace drug tests is by taking a urine sample. If done properly and professionally, these types of texts are extremely accurate.
Employees should inform those doing the drug testing of any medications or supplements they are currently taking, and bring prescriptions for documentation.
Drug testing is a policy implemented for everyone’s safety, but it should always be carried out in a clear, transparent way so that no employee feels his or her rights have been trampled upon.
If drug testing is used pre-employment as part of the candidate selection process, any applicant on prescription drugs – especially those on prescription opiates or who take cannabis for medical reasons – must inform their prospective employer to avoid discrimination.
If drug testing is a policy in a workplace, this should be made clear to all employees when the job offer is made and before they accept a contract to work at the company. As company policy, it should be clearly set out in the employee handbook.
Should an employee fail the test, they have the right to appeal and re-take the test. If an employee admits to having a drug problem, the employer has the right to suspend the employee while they seek treatment.
In order to avoid friction in the workplace, it is essential that all employees be treated equally so that no single individual or group feel discriminated against. Random testing is considered best, not only because those employees who are abusing drugs cannot hide it by abstaining for a couple of days immediately beforehand, but also in order to avoid the singling out of particular individuals.
Difficulties that Employees may Face when putting it into Practice
Someone with a history of drug addiction or alcoholism may qualify as disabled, which would restrict testing for any drugs or alcohol unless it was backed up by legitimate suspicions.