Small Business Guide to Employee Drug Testing

drug-testingEmployee screening tools such as drug testing are not limited to gigantic Fortune numbered corporations. Drug testing the employees is a proven method of screening potential applicants, and a valuable tool when make critical hiring decisions. Although some business owners might fear additional costs or administrative burdens, the truth is that when implemented properly, an employee drug testing policy will reduce costs and alleviate administrative burdens.

Which drug to test for

The first step is to decide what you are testing for. A standard 5 panel drug test checks for the most commonly abused such as:

If you suspect that employees abusing other drugs such as oxycodone might affect your business, then you should include such drugs in your testing requirements.

Drug testing methods

Once you know how many panels you need (each panel is a drug), you need to find a suitable specimen sample. Most drug tests are done through urine due to the low cost and reliability. Some businesses on the other hand have a specific requirement that works better with hair or saliva.

In regards to marijuana, urine will detect marijuana use up to 45 days after the last use, depending on the person. An infrequent user will only test positive for a few days whereas a chronic user can test positive for up to 2 months. The person's body fat content and metabolism also play a part in the detection time.

The other two popular testing specimens include hair and saliva. Hair is effective for long term testing (detects drug use for up to 90 days) and saliva is better for instant testing. It might take up to 2 days for drug use to be detected in the urine, whereas saliva will detect after a few hours of use.

Hair and saliva are harder to alter and cheat, but as long as a professional collection company is used, the risks of adulterating the sample is minimal.

Result speed

Most negative results are identified and reported with 2-3 business days. A positive result on the other hand will take a few more days to be confirmed and reported. Depending on how the testing is done, a secondary test might be performed to confirm the result. In addition, a Medical Review Officer (MRO) will have to contact the applicant to discuss the result. This process can take up to 10 days.

New technologies now offer rapid testing options that are affordable and reliable. The most well-known service is eScreen, which will report a negative result in 15 minutes. eScreen also offers DOT drug testing using their rapid test technology.

Identifying positives

If a specimen tests positive, the result is sent to a Medical Review Officer (MRO) for analysis. If the collection and testing was done correctly, then the MRO will contact the individual for further investigation. At this point, the MRO will inquire about any medication or other substances that might cause a false positive. During this conversation, the individual will have an opportunity to explain any mistakes or misunderstandings.

The only time you are notified about a positive drug test is when the MRO confirms that the test result is accurate, and all attempts were made to check for a false positive. At this point, you have feasible information and not fear excuses from an applicant.

What to do with a positive result

If you receive a notification from your MRO that an applicant tested positive, you have a few choices. First of all, know your rights and responsibilities. As an employer, you have the right to set-up screening policies, but you also much make sure you follow federal and state regulations including DOL, EEOC, FCRA, OSHA and others. This is best discussed with a lawyer.

However you decide to handle the case, understand that a positive drug test does not mean the applicant is unemployable. If you choose, review the result with the applicant and see if it is a situation that is unacceptable, or can be worked with. For example, you offer a position with further random testing during a probationary period. Again, these situations are best resolved with professional legal advice.

The savings

The national average for a 5-panel urine drug test is about $35 when performed through a professional collection, testing, and reporting company. Some see this as an unnecessary expense, but others see it as an extremely valuable assessment. The truth lies in your business. Drug testing is proven to increase business productivity, reduce work-related accidents, recruit higher caliber employees, and decrease the potential for workplace violence.

If your business can benefit from those traits, then an employee-screening program will pay for itself many times over. As an ROI, the investment of $35 per employee will result in a positive return with a better functioning office, less absenteeism, and a better performing workplace environment.

If you have any questions, please ask below!