Guest Post: An Intro to Employee Drug Testing

Because I am away getting married right now, I wanted to make sure there was some sort of blog posted to fill the void. Therefore, I have called upon Robyn Schelenz (great last syllable) to write a guest post about employee drug testing.

Drug testing has always been a very interesting topic for employers and even the legal system. Although it has now become an expected standard, there are a lot of misnomers about how to carry it out. Please allow Robyn to show you the basics of the process below.

Drug testing is an important concern for employers of all sizes. There are many considerations to make when deciding whether or not to drug test - your budget, your security, and the nature of your business.
There are a number of reasons to consider drug testing if you haven’t before. For example, in enacting the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998, Congress found:

• Of workplace accidents, 47% are drug-related
• Absenteeism is 66% greater among drug users
• Drug users are far more likely to utilize health benefits
• Employee turnover is significantly higher among drug users

Not to mention that disciplinary actions are 90 percent higher among drug users than non-drug users. These types of actions may range from the relatively harmless to the not so minor inconveniences of theft and/or blackmail.

You may wonder if your business is too small to warrant drug testing. We know that many large companies drug test, and that is perhaps why only 13% of employed current illicit drug users work at companies with 500 persons or more. The rest work at significantly smaller companies: 43% at companies that have between 25-499 employees and 44% at companies with 1-24 employees.

If you’re ready to drug test, consult your state’s laws on testing. There is significant variance from state to state as to what methods are allowed, and your state may even incentivize your choice to drug test. Once you’re confident you are operating within your legal rights, you can look at the variety of drug testing methods available. It is perhaps “traditional” to bring in someone to collect a urine sample and then send it to a laboratory, where they will conduct both an initial and (if the sample is non-negative) a confirmatory screen. Other options are also available.

Among these options is the increasingly popular point-of-collection test. There are many brands and some are available FDA cleared. They allow you to get results within minutes. Negative results don’t necessarily need a lab confirmation, and the reality is that most results will be negative. If a substance is detected, the sample is deemed “non-negative” and should be sent to a laboratory for further analysis. This sparks the part of drug testing that is more expensive and time consuming, for the employer and employee (or potential employee) alike. The lab will then confirm the test as a “positive” for whatever substance was found in the urine, and a Medical Review Officer (MRO) will certify the results.

In most states there are no restrictions on their use, although they are prohibited in Minnesota and can only be used in pre-employment screening in North Carolina. As with any type of testing method, it is important to consult your state’s Department of Labor (and the federal DoL as well) and be sure you are following all regulations.

Drafting a drug-free workplace policy for your business does take some time and thought, but it can be a very worthwhile investment in your company’s future. Insuring your employees are drug-free can not only secure your work environment – it can also secure your bottom line.

Sources: Current, William F. “Building Your Business With Alternative Testing.” DATIA Focus. Spring 2010.

Robyn Schelenz is an employee of Home Health Testing, an online home drug test kit supplier that also distributes kits to companies using point-of-collection testing methods. She welcomes any questions or feedback on drug testing from readers of this article and can be contacted at robyn at