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Avoid Workplace Discrimination by Training Supervisors on Reasonable Suspicion

By James Timothy White

Discrimination lawsuits have risen sharply in the last few years, including those involving drug and alcohol abuse and misuse. The EEOC now handles more than 120,000 reasonable suspicion claims annually, increasing from about 21,000 a decade ago. Employers must train their supervisors to handle reasonable suspicion accusations in a manner consistent with applicable laws. Any reasonable suspicion training provided to supervisors or employees needs to be comprehensive.

Reasonable Suspicion Definition and Application

Defining reasonable suspicion is the first step to training supervisors in reasonable suspicion. There are many definitions available; however, for discussion purposes, reasonable suspicion is defined as “a belief that the reasonable possibility exists that an employee’s behavior will lead to certain conclusions.” The reasonable suspicion definition should be broken down further for use in reasonable suspicion training by stating: reasonable suspicion is a reasonable belief based on fact, not perception. In contrast and reasonable belief is a reasonable conclusion or opinion based on perceived facts.

If supervisors are aware of reasonable suspicion legal parameters, reasonable suspicion is easier to identify.

Reasonable Suspicion Involving Drug and Alcohol Tests

Supervisors must realize reasonable suspicion drug tests are different from reasonable suspicion alcohol tests. An employer or supervisor cannot simply assume without discussing it with the employee and documenting reasonable belief, and any reasonable suspicion alcohol test must be based on observed behavior, while a reasonable suspicion drug test must be based on observed and reported behavior.

Reasonable Suspicion Policy and Procedure

Supervisors need reasonable suspicion guidelines that can be followed if reasonable drug abuse and misuse issues are discussed with an employee. The reasonable suspicion policy should state reasonable belief must have a factual basis. It should explain reasonable suspicion legal parameters with reasonable suspicion drug testing should be included in the reasonable suspicion policy.

Reasonable Suspicion Training for Supervisors

Training supervisors to conduct reasonable suspicion determinations for drug and alcohol testing will allow employees to express concerns about drug use or abuse in the workplace without retaliation. All reasonable suspicion training will include, but not limited to:

  • DOT reasonable suspicion testing requirements and DOT drug test results policies–including DOT alcohol testing procedures.
  • DOT reasonable suspicion testing guidelines–including DOT alcohol reasonable suspicion testing rules and DOT drug reasonable suspicion training procedures.
  • DOT reasonable suspicion testing policies (consequences) and DOT reasonable suspicion alcohol testing procedures (consequences)–including DOT reasonable suspicion procedures.

DOT-Regulated Employers Must Provide Mandatory Reasonable Suspicion Training to Supervisors

It is mandatory for employers to train supervisors on reasonable suspicion, including DOT reasonable suspicion testing guidelines. Training is not just about meeting regulations, its also about:

  • Encouraging supervisors to recognize reasonable suspicions while protecting the employee’s rights ultimately lowers the employer’s risk of DOT reasonable suspicion lawsuits.
  • If DOT reasonable suspicion training is not conducted or reasonable suspicion protocols are not followed, employers face legal consequences, which is why employers should always incorporate reasonable suspicion training into an existing DOT alcohol testing policy or DOT drug testing program to make it easier for supervisors to make determinations without fear of legal reprisal.
  • If DOT-regulated employers conduct comprehensive training on DOT reasonable suspicion requirements and implement a DOT alcohol testing policy that considers employee concerns about being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, they can potentially avoid objective liability by paying attention to what constitutes “reasonable belief,” employers can protect their image with employees. The larger concern is the possible DOT reasonable suspicion lawsuits and penalties if training is not performed.

What about NON-DOT Reasonable Suspicion Training?

A NON-DOT reasonable suspicion training program for supervisors should also be in place to educate and inform supervisors about reasonable suspicion testing issues that involved alcohol or drug reasonable suspicions for employees who are not regulated by the Department of Transportation. If a NON-DOT regulated employer or supervisor ignores reasonable suspicion–including reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing rules–they are rolling the dice with their government and regulatory compliance efforts.

Reasonable Suspicion Training: Supervisors vs. Non-Supervisory Employees

Supervisory employees such as managers, foremen, team leaders, production assistants, and other front-line supervisors need to understand reasonable drug abuse concerns regarding safety-sensitive positions. In many instances, supervisors need reasonable suspicion training to use employee concerns about drug abuse and reasonable suspicions to protect the employees’ rights before they are subjected to a drug test based on non-compliance with reasonable suspicion testing rules.

Can Non-Supervisors Conduct Reasonable Suspicion Testing?

If you ask this question, you may be surprised at what the answer really means; however, reasonable suspicion testing cannot be conducted by just anyone.

As a NON-DOT regulated employer, reasonable suspicion alcohol testing should not be done by supervisors who do not meet certain qualifications. To conduct tests under DOT regulations or NON-DOT rules. If reasonable suspicion testing is conducted by someone not qualified to do reasonable suspicion testing, you face significant consequences. It’s safer for employers to actually define reasonable suspicion training requirements and reasonable suspicion protocols in an employee handbook or policy manual that is communicated regularly. This helps reduce risk because the rules are clear to all employees when reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing may happen, who can make a reasonable suspicion determination, and how it will be administered.

The concept of NON-DOT reasonable suspicion should still be included in employer policy manuals. Employers need to address issues such as drug abuse or alcohol use during work hours. Hence, supervisors know reasonable suspicions about drugs while at work includes being under the influence of drugs while performing any operation or activity–not just driving a commercial motor vehicle.

Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace

Employee training for a drug-free workplace should be in place for all employees, including non-supervisor roles, and employee handbooks and policies should communicate clear rules about employee use of alcohol and drugs that can affect safety during work hours or while getting ready to go to work. There should also be a process included in an employee handbook for identifying and dealing with work place alcohol or drug abuse issues, and employee training for a drug-free workplace should address guidelines that prohibit employees from reporting to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as well as leaving early if they are under the influence of illegal drugs while working.

As a NON-DOT regulated employer, it is critical that supervisors are clear about the role of drugs and alcohol in an Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace plan.

Non-DOT Rules: Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace

There are several reasons why employee training for a drug-free workplace is critical for employers, they are as follows:

  • Employee handbooks and policies about Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace should address:
  • Employee responsibilities related to Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace. It’s the employee’s responsibility to follow Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace guidelines in order to keep their job.
  • Policies prohibiting use of alcohol or illegal drugs–or both–during work hours, on company property, and while getting ready to go to work.
  • How an Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace policy will be enforced. Most importantly, employees need to know how Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace violations will affect them and their jobs if they violate Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace rules. If you do not have Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace policies or Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace Employee Handbooks, please take the steps to create them now.
  • Employee training for a drug-free workplace Employee Handbook should address your expectations related to:
  • Employee responsibility rules if alcohol or drugs are found in their system while at work.
  • When an employer will consider other Driver Controlled Substance and alcohol testing options; because if one test result is confirmed positive, it’s presumed that evidence exists that the driver committed violations of controlled substances and alcohol prohibitions standards. Hence, this means an employer would not have to conduct reasonable suspicion drug testing or alcohol testing as proof of reasonable suspicion before taking action against an employee who violates Employee Training for a Drug-Free Workplace rules.

In short, it’s important to training all supervisors, executives, and how to conduct reasonable suspicion determinations in the workplace and also understand the importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace.

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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