One of the most important steps for any new hire involves a drug screen, especially in work environments where the individual will be operating machinery or vehicles. It only makes sense that employers would be concerned about substance abuse, because it can cause harm to the employer not just the employee. Not only is substance abuse dangerous, it also costs businesses a lot of money. According to a 2007 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), illicit drug users are more likely to ruin productivity by taking extra time off for illness, or injuries. Illicit drug users also change jobs more frequently.
Drug tests help ensure you're hiring employees that will stay clean on the job. As a business, how do you decide if it's a good idea to drug screen potential employees or not? What issues should you look out for when testing for drugs? Are there any legal ramifications you should be aware of? This post will answer those questions and more.
Why You Should Drug Test Applicants
The main reason you should consider drug screening applicants is the cost. Industries that see the most substance abuse include manufacturing, wholesale, construction and mining. According to HHS data, substance abuse is more common in younger, less-educated workers and many come from low-income households.
Is your business from a target industry and do you employ workers that fit the common profile? Will the costs associated with drug screening help cut down on total damages which arise from substance abuse? If you answered yes to those questions, you should definitely be drug screening potential employees.
Poor Work Environments Can Lead to Substance Abuse
According to this infographic (see below) from 12 Keys Rehab, 77% of illegal drug users work either full or part-time jobs. Furthermore, 60% of adults know someone who has actually worked under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Those numbers are definitely something to be concerned about, especially when you look at it from a productivity standpoint. Approximately 500 million workdays are lost annually thanks to employee substance abuse.
No employer wants to think their workplace is a poor environment, but sometimes it's unavoidable. High stress, long hours, irregular supervision, fatigue, easy access and boredom are some of the major causes of illicit drug use. Worse yet, all of those conditions can be experienced in work environments. Obviously, employers should focus on providing a healthy workplace for employees. However, that's not always possible, so if your employees are subjected to some of the aforementioned conditions it's important that you implement a drug screen.
Some Things to Consider
Consent Is Necessary
It is unlawful for an employer to acquire test results without first getting consent from the individual. An example of testing without consent includes collecting DNA samples without permission from an employee's person or work area. No matter the results, testing without consent could lead to a lawsuit.
Follow State Laws
Depending on where your business operates, there may or may not be state specific laws regarding drug screening. In Tennesee, employers are explicitly protected from participants who are terminated or disciplined because test results came back positive. Whereas, in Illinois and Virginia employers cannot require participants to pay for the drug tests out of their own pockets. You should be aware of different laws pertaining to your state of operation, and such information can be found through the US Department of Labor.
Only Test Applicants Who Have Been Offered Employment Opportunities
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act any business that employs 15 or more cannot legally test an applicant without extending an offer of employment first.
If You Test One Applicant, You Must Test Them All
While there are no direct legal ramifications for singling out various applicants or employees (even those you suspect are involved with drugs), it can be considered discriminatory in nature. You could open up your business to expensive anti-discriminatory lawsuits involving race, gender, income level or other protected statuses.