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Why Drug Testing is Important in Employment Background Screening

What is a drug test?

A drug test in employment background screening is the process of collecting a job applicant’s or an existing employee’s urine sample at a dedicated facility for the purpose of detecting the presence of specific substances. While this test can determine whether a person has a drug metabolite in their system, it cannot measure the frequency of substance abuse or how recently a substance was ingested. Every drug has its unique presence in the human body, rate of metabolization, and detection periods.

The most tested drugs are cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, cannabinoids, and phencyclidine. Depending on an employer’s policies and legal requirements, other substances they may consider testing for are benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, ecstasy, and methaqualone.

The benefits of drug screening prospective and current employees

  1. Improve Workplace Safety: Being under the influence of a substance can increase a person’s likelihood of being preoccupied and acting negligently. Specific safety-sensitive industries, such as construction,  transportation, and healthcare, pose extra risks and employers must ensure their employees are not under the influence.

  2. Increase Productivity: It is common for drug use to slow the speed at which the user is functioning, which can also affect the quality of their work-product. Maintaining a drug-free work environment can increase the performance of your employees, simultaneously reducing absenteeism.

  3. Lower Risk of Accidents: Drug testing employees can lead to lower rates of workplace accidents and injuries, potentially resulting in employers qualifying for lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums and saving on otherwise costly expenses over time.

  4. Reduction of Negligence Claims: Drug screenings can reveal that an employee’s illicit drug use caused or influenced a workplace accident or injury, which may help employers mitigate claims of negligence.

What are the different purposes for employment drug screening?

Pre-employment: It is part of the hiring policy that all applicants must successfully pass a drug test prior to securing employment within your company.

Random: Employers use a computer-generated process to select employees for drug testing at random intervals, with little advance notice to the individuals chosen. Drug testing of this nature is a requirement for companies operating under DOT guidelines, and may not otherwise be performed in select states.

Reasonable suspicion: Should an employer have reason to believe that an employee is performing under the influence, a certified person must observe the employee for demonstrated behavioral and physical patterns prior to requesting a drug test. Advance notice to the employee for this type of testing is not required, and the employee must be escorted to the collection site, and then to their home.

Return to work: A company with a drug-free workplace policy must act in accordance with its written procedures should an employee violate these rules. The employee may have the opportunity to complete a drug rehabilitation program and pass a drug test before returning to work. For DOT-regulated companies, the violating employee must complete a drug abatement program and pass a DOT drug test before returning to duty.

The importance of compliance with workplace drug screening laws

To maintain compliance in the workplace, employers must clearly communicate their drug testing policies and obtain informed consent from employees prior to conducting tests. A company must also protect prospective and established employees information by restricting who has access to drug screening results. It is equally vital that employers do not target specific individuals for testing based on characteristics such as race, gender, or disability.

Be aware that industries such as transportation, healthcare, and government contracting have specific regulations overseeing drug testing. While employers operating in these industries must comply with general workplace laws, they must also ensure compliance with industry-specific requirements.

In conclusion…

Implementing comprehensive drug testing programs is essential for employers to promote workplace safety, improve productivity, and ensure legal compliance. At the same time, early identification of individuals who may pose a severe risk can prevent accidents or injuries from occurring and mitigate claims of negligence against an employer. Drug testing maintains the integrity of the workplace environment by fostering a culture of trust and responsibility.

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