Workaholics: Drug testing

The Comedy Central show Workaholics is currently in its fifth season of depicting a fresh (and hilarious) human resources nightmare week after week. The show is about three recent college dropouts (Blake, Adam, and Anders) who also happen to be roommates and coworkers at a fictional telemarketing company, TelAmeriCorp. To give you an idea of just how mischievous these three can be, their drug dealer/turtle feeder is also a regular fixture on the show. iStock_000003274349_Large

Fittingly, the pilot episode deals with the trio attempting to pass a company-wide drug test after a day of partying. Their shenanigans include, for example, bribing a middle school boy with fireworks and ninja stars in exchange for clean urine. When this plan goes awry (I won’t give away the messy details), the group decides to accept their  fate and take the drug test. Blake, however, finds inspiration from the film Die Hard and decides to contaminate ALL the employees’ samples before escaping just in the nick of time. Shocked to find that all TelAmeriCorp employees failed the drug test, Alice Murphy (senior sales associate and boss to our oddly endearing–though often disgusting and misguided–trio) relieves the drug tester of his duties. Blake, Adam, and Anders celebrate only to learn that the company has planned a hair follicle test.

Hopefully, you don’t know anyone who has taken a page from the Workaholics playbook for handling a company drug test. As employers are well aware, illicit drug and alcohol abuse can be costly in the workplace, and drug-free workplace programs can be powerful tools for spreading prevention messages and intervening early with those who have begun to use drugs. In my Christmas-themed Elf post, I discussed some general recommendations for such programs. In addition, there are many important legal considerations for employers, including the following examples.

  • Defamation. Revealing drug testing results, or simply revealing the basis for a suspicion of drug use, could be grounds for a defamation claim. Policies should minimize this risk by strictly limiting access to drug test information on a “need to know” basis, limiting statements to objective fact, obtaining a release, requiring follow-up confirmation testing, safeguarding the specimen (especially from Die Hard fans like Blake), using a reliable lab, and using split samples so employees can have a sample tested at their own expense.
  • Disability Discrimination. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not protect current illegal drug users, both alcoholism and drug addiction are protected disabilities.  Employee misconduct caused by addiction is not protected by the ADA, however.
  • Adverse Impact.  If an employer’s policy or practice, such as disciplining or terminating all employees testing positive for drugs, adversely affects the employment opportunities of a class of employees protected by statute (such as minorities), the policy or practice may be challenged as discriminatory.
  • Employee Privacy.  There is no federally created right of privacy for private-sector employees. The federal prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures apply only to governmental action. Many state constitutions or statutes, however, contain a right of privacy that may limit certain drug testing methods or the circumstances under which an employee may be subject to drug testing. Employers should check the laws of the states in which they have employees before implementing a drug testing policy.

Unfortunately for our Workaholics, many state laws make it unlawful for any person to attempt to defraud any lawfully administered test designed to detect the presence of chemical substances or controlled substances. For the time being, our trio has escaped to bring us more cringe-worthy office moments, laughs, and potential blog material. So tell me your favorite episode and why it should appear in an upcoming blog post.

4 thoughts on “Workaholics: Drug testing”

  1. Hair testing is the real story. Up to 90 days of a drug history. Impossible to beat. Ideal for pre-employment and follow-up testing.

  2. Very interesting comment, Jim. So, you don’t believe Adam’s brilliant idea of giving a red-headed middle school girl ninja stars in exchange for one of her pigtails would actually work? Of course, it would have been a really short season if they all got fired after episode one. It makes me wonder if some misguided soul has tried Adam’s method.

  3. Great post, Kristin. Being aware of state-specific laws when conducting drug tests is very important. For example, in Texas (where I practice), the Texas Workforce Commission sets out some fairly clear and strict guidelines regarding the kind of documentation an employer needs to respond to an unemployment claim involving an ex-employee whose termination resulted from failing a drug test. To establish that a claimant’s positive drug test result constitutes misconduct resulting in the claimant not being eligible for unemployment benefits, an employer must present:

    1.a policy prohibiting a positive drug test result, receipt of which has been acknowledged by the claimant;
    2.evidence to establish that the claimant has consented to drug testing under the policy;
    3.documentation to establish that the chain of custody of the claimant’s sample was maintained;
    4.documentation from a drug testing laboratory to establish than an initial test was confirmed by the Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry method; and
    5.documentation of the test expressed in terms of a positive result above a stated test threshold.

    Just my two cents…

  4. I love Blake’s harebrained scheme. Your post definitely piqued my interest in Workaholics, and from a labor and employment standpoint, watching it might even get me some kudos at work. Thanks!

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