Under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, there is no explicit “drug testing” required for employees. Some states and local governments even have statues that limit or prohibit workplace testing unless a state or federal employer requires it.
Still, most private employers are granted the right to test employees for a wide variety of substances. It is important for employers to familiarize themselves with federal and state regulations that may apply to their organization before designing a drug-testing program.
There are various reasons that would compel an employer to test job applicants and current workers. Testing:
1. Discourages the staff from drug and alcohol abuse
2. Prevents the hiring of a person who uses illegal substances
3. Detects alcohol and drug problems of a person early on
4. Improves workplace safety, protecting people from substance abusing co-workers
5. Promotes public safety, as consumers or clients of a workplace can have confidence in the service they receive
A person’s hair, blood, or urine are what most tests use to determine drug or a alcohol content. Urinalysis is the most preferred method among employees and employers prefer it as well; it is the cheapest drug test around. However, the accuracy of such a test is hardly 100%. Not all illegal drugs can be tested for this way.
If an employee tests positive for a drug test, he or she may be terminated or punished. However, if the employee believes the test to be flawed, he or she can file a defamation charge for being wrongfully accused of illegal drugs. As long as a workplace invests in an accurate, reliable drug test and makes sure it is permitted to test employees, this won’t be a concern though.
Here are steps to designing accurate drug tests:
1. Only the most competent laboratory must administer and analyze drug test results, and one that is certified by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is preferable. A NIDA certified laboratory will assure that you receive only accurate, reliable results and thus you will eliminate any possibility of being charged for defamation. Likewise, make sure the laboratory is capable of testing a wide range of drugs or only the drugs you are concerned about. Some labs do not test for marijuana, for instance.
2. Employers must also be fully informed on how drug tests work and are conducted. And the procedures must be followed carefully; any error can render results inaccurate.
3. It’s best to employ a split sample method, which means only a small portion of the specimen (hair or urine, etc) is initially tested while the remaining sample is reserved for future testing. This way, if there is any mistake or question of accuracy, testing can be repeated.
4. The test should include safeguards against fraud as well. An NIDA certified laboratory can provide for and instruct an employer on fraud-prevention techniques.
5. It is important to be aware of the potential for false positives as well – even perfectly legal over-the-counter medications can yield a positive result!