Approaching employee drug testing in your company

Why employee drug testing is gaining in popularity?

The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance reports that small businesses tend to suffer the most from employee drug abuse. This is mostly because drug abusers deliberately avoid working for large corporations that may already have testing procedures in place, and almost certainly have a more robust disciplinary process to remove employees who are not performing at the required level. A result of this is that more small businesses are now drug testing their employees.

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Why it is often necessary?

While some businesses have to carry out regular drug tests by law, it is becoming more important for all businesses to consider testing.

If a member of staff is under the influence of an illegal substance and has an accident, whether injuring him or herself, a colleague or a customer, there could be a case for litigation against the business for failing to ensure a safe working environment.

Drug testing methods

Urine tests are accurate and give the fastest results. Urine testing can be used for illegal drugs, alcohol and abused prescription drugs. Urine tests can only detect if a person has been taking drugs recently.

Hair follicle tests can detect the same drugs as urine tests but have the advantage that they will detect if a person has been using drugs in the past three months. Also, a person can buy products to help flush substances from their system to make urine testing almost impossible. There is no way to hide the chemicals from hair follicles. Follicle testing does, however, take longer to process.

Employee drug testing and the law

As well the ethical issues surrounding drugs testing in a business environment, there are also legal issues.

Drug testing should be a companywide policy. Employers cannot select individuals for testing, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. It must be company policy to test all employees, either when they commence work or on a regular basis. If only a few workers are tested there is a risk that they could file anti-discrimination lawsuits against the company.

Any company that receives federal funds or contracts to a value greater than $100,000 must conduct drugs tests, again, testing all of their employees.

Job applicants may only be tested after a conditional job offer is made. Drug testing cannot form a part of the selection process.

Consent must be received from all employees who are tested. This can be written into the employee contracts and new employees should be made aware of the testing policy before accepting the contract.

It is important to understand the rules and regulations within your state. In some states an employer cannot be expected to pay for drug tests. Check the Drug-Free Workplace program on the US Department of Labor website for rules specific to each state.


Companies need to ensure that drug testing is carried out in a safe environment and that employee health is not put at risk by the process.

Employers should also respect an employee’s privacy. If a test result is positive it should be the employee’s right that this is not made public within the company.  Today some businesses cannot afford not to drug test. The risk of declining performance and litigation can outweigh the costs of implementing a company drug testing policy.

Approaching employee drug testing in your company