Drug testing has become more of a hot issue as drug abuse
becomes a more widespread problem in the United States. Many
businesses realize that drug-abusing employees cost them money,
and they want to reduce those costs.
What other reasons are there to test for drug use?
- It is a screening device. One of the best ways to
protect your business is to aggressively screen out alcohol
or drug abusers before they become employees. Drug tests can
help pinpoint those who are dependent on alcohol and drugs.
- It is a defensive tool. Giving applicants a drug
test protects your company from negligent
hiring claims arising from violence
violations. It is also true that drug abusers tend to avoid
firms that test.
- It may be a legal requirement. For certain
safety-sensitive positions and occupations, drug and alcohol
testing of applicants is mandated by federal or state law.
Railroad and other public transportation
employees must be tested for drug and alcohol
Do you have to test all job applicants? You can be
selective so long as you don't discriminate against protected
groups. Otherwise, the answer varies depending on state law.
In more than half of the states, state laws provide
guidelines for when you may test applicants and employees and
the procedures that must be followed. If you choose to have a
drug and alcohol testing program, it must comply with those
procedures, safeguards, and limitations.
Where they have been enacted, state laws generally apply to
all applicants and employees. They may, however, allow testing
of applicants only where the nature of the job is high-risk or
safety-sensitive or if testing is required by federal or state
law. Some states explicitly require that you may only test
applicants that have been offered a position conditioned on a
negative drug and alcohol test. Other states encourage testing
by providing lower worker's compensation rates to employers who
establish a testing program in conformance with specific
requirements. Click on your state on the map below to see
whether your state has a law on the subject and, if so, the
limitations that apply.
Do you have to give applicants notice of drug testing?
Many drug and alcohol testing laws require that job applicants
be notified in advance that they may be tested, and under what
conditions. Generally, the fact that your company conducts drug
and alcohol testing should be spelled out in the job application.
In addition, written notice of the need for testing must be
given before the job applicant may be tested. One way to fulfill
requirements and protect yourself is to follow these steps (but
check applicable state laws on notice):
- Give the applicant written notice that drug testing is
required before hiring, by means of either the employment
application itself or a form given out at the first
interview. The notice should list over-the-counter
medications that may produce a positive test result.
- Invite the applicant back for a second interview.
- Hand the applicant a conditional job
offer letter that indicates that the position is
conditional upon completion of drug test.
- Announce that the drug test will take place immediately.
This procedure will "catch" any applicant who
would otherwise have scheduled the drug test at his or her
convenience and would have allotted sufficient time for any
drug residue to have dispersed from his or her system.
- Give the applicant an information form detailing the time
and place of the appointment.
- Deny employment if there is a positive test result.
If you have 15 or more employees. As an employer of 15
or more, you're subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) — a federal law that protect people with disabilities
from discrimination. If this is a consideration for you, you
should test job applicants only after they have been given a
conditional job offer. Why? Because, generally, as part of the
test, the examinee is asked about prescription drugs or other
reasons that could account for a false positive reading.
If you ask about prescription drugs before a
preliminary job offer was made, it might appear that you are
trying to screen out people who have a disability.