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Creating a drug-free workplace: How to draft a policy, conduct legal tests

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in Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

When drug abuse isn’t an obvious problem in the workplace, it’s easy for employers to develop a cavalier attitude about it. That’s not smart.

Even isolated incidents of drug abuse can cause dangerous safety conditions, injuries and shoddy work. It’s in your best interest to detect employee drug abuse early and root it out immediately. But that’s easier said than done.

Keeping your workplace drug-free means knowing how to spot the problem and effectively respond to it—without violating employees’ legal rights and creating legal liability.

Develop a drug abuse policy

Your first line of defense is a policy clearly stating that you don’t tolerate illegal drug use at work. Include your policy in your employee handbook, post it conspicuously and communicate it to your employees frequently. It should spell out your rules on the use and abuse of drugs and the consequences for employees who violate them. State that management reserves the right to revise the drug policy at any time.

Note: For examples of effective drug abuse policies, read our Drugs in the Workplace white paper at www.theHRSpecialist.com/whitepaper.

Uniformly and consistently enforce your drug abuse policy, without regard for employee rank or position. Your attorney should review your policy to ensure it complies with federal, state and local laws.

Conduct drug testing legally

For many employers—especially those whose employees do potentially dangerous work—it makes sense to test employees to make sure they’re not using illegal drugs. Blood and urine analyses are the most common types of drug tests.

But be careful: Drug testing can be a legal minefield, and employers that don’t administer tests properly can easily find themselves in court.

That’s why most employers outsource drug-testing. Reputable outside laboratories have the expertise to perform tests reliably and legally.

It’s your obligation to conduct due diligence when choosing a lab. Ask about its quality-control procedures. Does it carefully handle blood and urine samples to prevent mix-ups? How long does it keep records? You’ll need to know the answers if an employee challenges your testing procedures in court.

If your organization conducts pre-employment drug tests, be sure to say so on your job applications. If you routinely test employees, be sure your policies specifically state that remaining drug-free is a condition of employment.

When can you test?

About a third of states have laws regulating employee drug testing. Be sure to check your state law before beginning a testing program.

Based on court and arbitration rulings, companies appear to be safe in administering drug tests in three situations:

  1. Pre-employment, following a conditional job offer (provided your state law doesn’t prohibit this)
  2. During a fitness-for-duty test of an employee who has performance problems
  3. After the occurrence of a preventable accident that might have been caused by drug abuse.

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