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Why Employers Should Mandate Reasonable Suspicion Training for Supervisors

By Andrew David Easler, Esq.

Every employer that conducts drug and alcohol testing should conduct training that includes information about how to make reasonable suspicion determinations that do not violate state and federal employment laws.

However, training supervisors on conduct when it involves making reasonable suspicion determinations will help protect employers from civil claims and help ensure that their employees who are subject to drug and alcohol testing are not subjected to improper requests for testing.

Reasonable suspicion training teaches supervisors to identify reasonable doubt and how it can be formed by observing the employee’s behavior and appearance. Normal behaviors including eating, drinking, sleeping, talking on the phone, coughing, or sneezing are not reasonable suspicion.

Training can help supervisors make reasonable suspicion determinations when interacting with employees subject to drug or alcohol testing.

To make a reasonable suspicion determination that an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cannot perform their duties, an employer must have training on making reasonable suspicion determinations that do not violate state and federal employment laws.

Training supervisors on reasonable suspicion training will ensure that proper training is conducted for all those involved in making reasonable suspicion determinations for drug and alcohol testing.

What training should include?

Supervisor training should include training that helps understand what a reasonable suspicion determination is, training that helps them to understand how to make reasonable suspicion determinations in compliance with federal and state employment laws, training which includes examples of violations of company policy, and training on the steps involved in making reasonable suspicion determinations.

Training supervisors on the definition of “reasonable suspicion” and helps them understand what training is needed to make a reasonable suspicion determination in compliance with the federal employment and state drug testing laws will help reduce the risk of litigation.

Training should also instruct supervisors on determining if reasonable suspicion exists and how to document that determination following State and Federal Laws.

It is recommended training should be conducted by experienced trainers and training curriculum providers with an understanding of federal and state employment laws, drug testing regulations, and drug and alcohol testing.

The training should be provided periodically (even if it’s only required once in a supervisor’s lifetime) to all supervisors and others who have supervisory responsibility for employees subject to drug and alcohol testing.

By training your supervisors on reasonable suspicion training, you’ll ensure the proper training on reasonable suspicion determinations is conducted in compliance with state and federal employment laws.

Training all supervisors on reasonable suspicion determinations is just one part of safety in the workplace.

What types of reasonable suspicion training are there?

When it comes to reasonable suspicion training, there are two types:

  1. DOT reasonable suspicion training (for those employers that are subject to DOT regulations. And, if required by the state reasonable suspicion testing laws); and,
  2. NON-DOT reasonable suspicion (for all other employers).

To determine whether reasonable suspicion is needed for your company needs to be aware of the type of reasonable suspicion training you have, and if it’s DOT reasonable suspicion or NON-DOT reasonable suspicion.

What reasonable suspicion is not:

Reasonable suspicion is not reasonable cause for a positive drug test. The reasonable cause must be proven by what’s called “direct observation” which can include a wide variety of behaviors, but reasonable suspicion requires a “suspicion”, not direct observation.

What reasonable suspicion is:

Reasonable suspicion is the reasonable doubt formed by observing employee behavior or a combination of actions and behaviors, that causes supervisors to suspect an employee may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and unable to perform their duties safely. It can also be reasonable suspicion when there is a combination of employees’ actions and behaviors that causes supervisors reasonable doubt.

Reasonable suspicion can also include the reasonable doubt formed by an observable change in employee behavior or characteristic, such as how they dress, their speech patterns, changes in physical appearance (like bloodshot eyes), unusual odors, or other signs of possible drug or alcohol use.

Reasonable suspicion is a reasonable doubt that an employee may be using drugs or alcohol. The reasonable suspicion determination doesn’t require direct observation to form reasonable doubt; it can include a combination of behavioral and physical changes—which can include the way they dress, their speech patterns, changes in physical appearance (like bloodshot eyes), unusual odors, or other signs of possible drug or alcohol use.

If you are unsure how to train your supervisors or other personnel who will be making reasonable suspicion determinations for drug or alcohol testing, training help is available from our trainers that specialize in training employers how to comply with federal and state employment laws when conducting drug or alcohol testing of their applicants and employee population.

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