Drug Testing

According to a report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 8 percent — about one in 12 — full-time workers ages 18 to 64 used illegal drugs in the past month.

The study, from the 2011 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, uncovers an important finding for business owners, showing that current drug users were more likely to work for employers that did not conduct drug or alcohol testing programs. In addition, nearly a third of current illicit drug users said they would be less likely to work for employers that conducted random drug testing.

Because drug use can affect your employees' health and productivity, it's important to periodically review your drug-testing policies. By implementing workplace drug-testing policies, you may be able to help prevent drug use before it starts, identify employees who need drug treatment, and reduce work-related accidents due to illegal drug use. One of the biggest issues employer face when dealing with drug testing is invasion into employee privacy.

In the late 1980s, the U.S. Supreme Court approved employer testing of job applicants and employees for drugs and alcohol in special circumstances. Also, federal legislation, most notably the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988, requires most federal contractors and grantees to create policies designed to maintain a drug-free workplace. A later law mandated testing regulations for the transportation industry.

Several federal agencies have implemented testing requirements. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense tests all security-sensitive employees, while the U.S. Department of Transportation requires the same for a wide range of employees such as truck drivers, airline crews, train crews, and pipeline employees in safety-sensitive jobs.

Many states have enacted their own statutes, including testing standards, designed to ensure drug-free and alcohol-free workplaces in both the private and public sectors. Testing also is widespread in the remaining states, especially among larger employers.

Comprehensive laws and regulations on alcohol and drug testing cover many issues. These include an employers’ right to test, the creation and communication of policies, the collection and custody of samples, laboratory licensing and procedures, the consequences of positive results, confidentiality of results, and the enforcement of rights and obligations.