Drug Tests: Four Questions to Ask Before Dropping Your Program

By Steve Donovan on Mar 27, 2018
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Drug Tests: Four Questions to Ask Before Dropping Your Program

In the tightest labor market in 17 years, employers are desperate to expand their talent pool. With a worker shortage, some companies have stopped employment drug tests. It’s a tempting way to get more workers in the door.

However, every company needs to evaluate how drug use affects its bottom line. It’s estimated that drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually. These costs are due to accidents, health care, lost time, and workers compensation. For many companies, the cost of drug use could easily outweigh the hiring benefit.

Before dropping drug testing completely, employers should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. How will drug use affect the safety of my employees?

    There are many jobs that are dangerous to perform, such as manufacturing and construction positions. Workers under the influence put themselves at risk and endanger those around them. According to the Department of Labor, drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is responsible for 65 percent of on-the-job accidents. Additionally,40% of all on-site injuries are caused by substance abusers.

    Employers are obligated to provide a safe workplace for their employees. If drug use puts people at risk, you have a moral responsibility to screen your employees. If you choose not to drug test your employees, your company could be sued for negligence if an incident occurs.

  2. How will drug use impact my company’s profitability?

    Not surprisingly, substance abuse kills workplace productivity. Drug use causes a lack of focus, poor concentration, and errors in judgment. According to NCADD, substance abuse lowers the productivity of your business by one-third and causes 2.5 times more absenteeism.

    Additionally, employees who abuse drugs often job hop. This means employers waste resources onboarding workers with a higher turnover. Removing drug testing makes it easier to get new workers in the door. However, you might not be able to keep them for long.

  3. How will drug use impact my workplace dynamic and employee morale?

    There are many unknowns when hiring new employees. Each employee can make a significant impact on a team or company. Consequently, an employer needs to know who they bring into their workforce.

    Five Ways Employers Can Prepare for Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

    Drugs use can dramatically change a person’s behavior. If left unchecked, these negative changes may hurt employee morale. For example, an employee struggling with substance abuse may be lethargic, tardy, or quick-tempered. This behavior often has a ripple effect on other employees. Co-workers may resent the substance abuser’s behavior and it could impact their own productivity.

  4. Will drug testing affect my grants and contracts with the federal government?

    Organizations that receive federal grants are required to comply with the government’s Drug-Free Workplace Act. Regardless of dollar value, all federal grants must meet this act’s requirements. If companies fail to comply, they could lose grant funding. Additionally, they may be prohibited from future grants for up to five years.

    If an organization does more than $100,000 of business with the federal government, it must also comply with these requirements. Neglecting these requirements could cause a company to lose a contract. The company may also be prohibited from future contracts for up to five years.

Modifying Drug Testing Policy

If you’re still concerned that drug testing is a barrier to talent, consider modifying your employment policy. For example, because many states are legalizing marijuana, some states now exclude it from drug testing. Before revising your policy, take appropriate steps to ensure due diligence. Seek legal counsel and evaluate how your company may be impacted by marijuana use.

Some companies still drug test, but now make individual assessments of candidates. One company hires candidates that test positive for drugs but takes extra precautions. For instance, the hiring manager avoids assigning more than one drug user to the same shift. This ensures they don’t negatively influence each other.

If your policy changes, it’s important to ensure drug testing can be applied fairly to all employees. To avoid lawsuits, it’s important that no one interprets your policy as singling out certain employees. Policies must avoid targeting employees based on income level, gender, race, or other protected status.

Zach Townsend, HR Manager at Verified First, advised,“A drug testing policy needs to be well-written and reflective of the organization's culture. Can changes be applied consistently throughout or will it disparately impact a certain class or group? Policy revision should be well communicated and reviewed by legal counsel.”

An Effective Drug Testing Policy Requires High Standards

When creating your drug testing policy, it’s critical to weigh potential benefits against possible risks. Dropping drug testing may be an easier way to get candidates in the door. However, it may negatively impact your retention, employee safety, and ultimately, your profitability.

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Written by Steve Donovan

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Table of Contents

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5 Questions to Ask When Testing Employees for Marijuana

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