Does your organization have a formal drug testing policy? Many employers do, primarily out of concern for safety of all workers. The concern is that employers want to ensure they don’t knowingly hire someone who may end up coming to work under the influence of a substance that will create an unsafe situation.
That said, drug testing policies are not always simple. There are a lot of pros and cons to consider when implementing such a policy. This is a two-part series where we’ll discuss the pros and cons separately. Let’s start with the pros.
Drug Testing: Pros
In a lot of ways, it’s almost viewed as mandatory to have a drug screening policy because an employer has an obligation to provide a safe working environment. Many employers feel that this alone may make the “cons” list nearly irrelevant, but it’s still important to look at both sides of the situation to know what you’re facing.
Here are some potential benefits of a mandatory drug testing program:
- With a reduction in the risk of accidents caused by drug-related incapacitation, comes a reduction in the costs associated with such accidents.
- Having a drug testing policy in place may discourage employees from using any type of prohibited substance. This can even be seen as a benefit for employees who have drug problems because it can be an incentive.
- If an employer hires someone who poses a threat in some manner—such as acting in an unsafe or violent way—and the employer could have known this by conducting a previous drug screening, the employer may be liable for the actions since it could have known the risk. Having a drug testing policy may reduce the chances of this occurring.
- A policy of mandatory drug testing after any incident can also help the employer with liability issues in a seemingly opposite way as well. If it can be shown that the employee was under the influence when he or she was injured or caused an accident, that could lessen the employer’s liability. Note, however, that is assuming, of course, the employer did test previously and did not have reason to know of the drug use in advance. It also assumes there was not an underlying safety issue that caused the incident.
- In theory, hiring only workers who can pass a drug test will help to ensure that the workforce is working at their highest potential, not working under the influence of any drug.
- By not hiring someone who has a drug problem, that can mean you’re less likely to simply lose that employee quickly later on. When viewed from this perspective, a drug testing program can reduce eventual turnover for those who have drug problems.
- Many employees may be happy to know that they’re working in an environment that does not tolerate drug use. (Note, however, that drug testing policies are not always good for morale, which we’ll discuss in part two of this two-part series.)
- It can reduce future costs like productivity loss, tardiness, absenteeism, increased healthcare premiums, workers’ comp increases from accidents, etc, all of which could be related to employee drug use.
These are all very good reasons to implement a drug testing policy. And there are many ways to do so. Some employers opt to have a drug test as a condition of employment and then only test again if there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use or an incident that would warrant doing so. Other organizations do that and also opt to include randomized drug tests as well. Check your state and local laws to see what is permissible before implementing any program.
Stay tuned for part two of this two-part series, where we’ll discuss some of the negative aspects of implementing a drug testing program as a condition of employment.
Join Susan Fentin, of Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., as she presents the preconference workshop, “Avoiding Hiring Landmines: Navigating Pre-Employment Inquiries, Background Checks, Drug Testing, I-9s, and Other Legal Tripwires,” at the 22nd annual Advanced Employment Issues Symposium (AEIS)—being held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, November 15-17. Click here to learn more, or to register today.