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Why Employers Big and Small Should Maintain a Drug-Free Workplace?

By James Timothy White

Since drug testing first came into vogue, drug testing and drug-free workplaces have become a hotly debated topic, and many drug testing regulations have been struck down based on Fourth Amendment rights.

It’s common to hear drug-testing opponents argue that drug tests violate an employee’s constitutional rights, while drug-testing supporters argue that drug tests can save lives and cut health care costs.

The truth is, drug tests do not violate an individual’s civil liberties; drug tests allow employers to maintain safe workplaces for the benefit of their employees, as well as their customers.

What is Drug Testing?

Drug testing involves checking for illegal drugs in a person’s system by testing specimens like urine or hair. Did you know that there are two types of drug tests: screening and confirmation.

  • Screening methods look for traces of drugs in the body and show them up a day or two after drug use.
  • Confirmation methods look for drug metabolites, which cannot be detected until several days to a week after drug intake.

The most common drug test, often used in pre-employment drug testing, is the five-panel drug test, which looks for marijuana, cocaine (including crack), PCP, amphetamines, and opiates such as codeine and morphine.

Drug Testing Convinces Employees Not to Take Drugs In The Workplace

A drug-free workplace deters employees from taking drugs at work. It prevents them from getting high on their lunch breaks or stealing company property to support addiction and promotes a safe work environment, among many benefits.

Drug Testing Gets Rid of Drug Users Who Are Dangerous to Others In The Workplace

Employers who maintain drug-free workplaces get rid of drug users who are dangerous to others in the workplace. By getting rid of drug users, employers protect their employees and customers from drug users’ violent or erratic behavior while high on drugs.

Maintaining a drug-free workplace is often mandatory for certain positions where there is public contact.

A drug-free workplace means that an employee is a drug-free while on the clock. A drug-free employee is less likely to be a danger to themselves and others due to drug use.

Maintaining a drug-free workplace is cost-effective.

For drug users, drug use can be costly and depleting to their personal finances. For employers who have drug-users in the workplace, drug abuse takes a toll on company drug testing costs, drug rehab costs, time off work due to injury or illness caused by drug abuse, worker’s compensation claims for injuries suffered while on drugs, and lower productivity levels as a result of an employee being high on drugs when they are supposed to be working.

Why Should Employers Conduct Drug Testing?

Drug testing helps employers maintain safe workplaces by identifying employees who use illegal drugs. Most importantly, drug testing benefits both employees and employers: it keeps them healthy and alive at work.

When drug use is suspected, or drug abuse is alleged, drug testing can be used to verify drug use even before the drug use has caused any visible problems like slurred speech, dilated pupils, broken blood vessels on the face, etc.

Because drug testing is a deterrent, drug addicts and alcoholics are less likely to get jobs where drug testing requirements are mandatory if such tests will be done randomly as part of the hiring process.

With drug testing in place, employers minimize the chances of drug abuse incidents occurring on company grounds by confirming that employees participate in dangerous activities like operating equipment. At the same time, intoxicated or working with heavy machinery, maintain sobriety at all times.

Employee drug abuse is an increasing problem in today’s workplace, as drug use has become more socially acceptable. A drug-free workplace ensures a safe, drug-free environment for both employers and employees alike.

What Are Some Methods Employers Can Use To Maintain a Drug-Free Workplace?

There are several methods employers can use to maintain drug-free workplaces, including complying with federal regulations regarding drug testing for specific jobs profiles, setting consequences for when drug testing reveals drug use or the threat of imminent drug use, and posting signs around the workplace describing its zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

Drug Testing For Safety Purposes:  “Safety-sensitive” jobs are considered those where an impaired worker could create a safety risk in terms of their ability to perform job duties safely and efficiently. These jobs include pilots, police officers (who may have firearms), airline flight attendants, nuclear power plant operators, truck drivers, etc.

Certain drug tests are mandatory for safety-sensitive jobs, and applicants’ drug testing is strongly recommended to determine the drug use history before hiring.

Non-safety-sensitive jobs aren’t drug tested unless the employer has reasonable suspicion that their employee used drugs recently or is currently using them (such as if an employer witnesses an employee under the influence of alcohol). Employers can carry out random drug testings on employees even when they have no reasonable suspicion about drug use by employees.   These types of random drug testing may not be included in state laws, so consult your state’s drug policy first before implementing a workplace drug testing program.

Employee consequences for violating company policies regarding drug abuse within the workplace could include drug rehab, drug testing, and monitoring while on probation for a certain period of time after drug rehabilitation treatment or drug abuse counseling.

Some employers opt to provide drug education among employees and their families to reduce the incidence of drug use within the workforce. These programs can be both educational and interactive, providing drug prevention information from people who have been through alcohol or drug rehab themselves.

Others prefer teaching employees how to handle work situations without using drugs rather than imposing penalties such as suspensions when an employee is found using drugs at work.  Positive reinforcement with incentives like bonuses or cash rewards can help reinforce that drug-free workplaces are the best workplace to work in.

It is recommended that drug education programs be conducted at least once a year as drug prevention tools and drug awareness information remain valid for a limited period of time after it’s been circulated.  Employees should also be informed about free drug rehabilitation centers available near their area to seek professional help if they know or suspect that they have drug abuse problems.

Zero-tolerance policies on drug use within the workplace, and drug education among workers about what drugs look like and how to recognize them, as well as signs posted around the workspace alerting employees to possible drug abuse may prevent accidents that cost lives and money, both of which severely affect your business’s bottom line.

Each drug abuse incident can result in a lawsuit for your business. Drug abuse incidents among employees may bring unnecessary attention to your company that could damage its reputation or even affect how customers view it.  According to drugrehab-network.com, drug testing is integral to drug rehabilitation because drug abusers are less likely to return to treatment facilities if they fail their drug tests while on probation following drug rehab.

Example of what the company policy can look like when implemented:

“Any employee involved in an accident at work will be subject to drug testing within a 48-hour period after the event.” “Any time a supervisor witnesses a co-worker using drugs during work hours (either suspected for use or actually under the influence), the supervisor is required to report the drug abuse incident to his/her immediate supervisor.” “Any employee on probation for drug-related violations will be subject to random drug testing until he or she passes drug tests.”

Avoid accidental drug overdoses among employees by implementing drug policies that encourage them not to use drugs while on duty.  Some of these measures include zero tolerance for drug abuse within your workplace, education programs, and drug testing among employees. Implementing a drug policy in your company and educating your workers about the consequences of drug abuse incidents at work and those who may have experienced some addiction problem before can help prevent workplace accidents caused by drug use or abuse. It’s also important that you do everything necessary to ensure a drug-free workplace.

Employers everywhere are concerned about the incidence of drug use among their workforce. They have implemented policies to discourage drug abuse in the workplace, including substance abuse testing and counseling, employee education programs, and zero tolerance for drug use on duty as well as during breaks or off days from work, or even before reporting to work when they go through drug rehabilitation for cocaine dependence problems.

An employer drug policy is important not only to protect the interests of your business but also for employee protection, not to mention that a drug-free workplace leads to drug-free employees and drug-free employees lead to drug-free customers.

The information on this page may have changed since we first published it. We give great legal advice, but this page (and the rest of our site) is for informational use only and is no substitute for actual legal advice. If you’d like to establish an attorney-client relationship, reach out to us and we’ll tell you how we can make it official. Sending us an email or reading this page alone doesn’t mean we represent you.

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