What Employers Need to Know About Workplace Drug Testing (Part 4)

September 5, 2012

drug screening

This is part 4 of a 4 part series on workplace drug testing.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Considerations when implementing drug testing

Who pays for a drug test?  Does an employee have to be paid for time spent having a drug test?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an employer normally pays for a drug test.  Also, time spent having a required drug test is generally considered hours worked (and thus compensable time) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulation, for employees who are covered by the Act.  These types of issues are overseen by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.  For further guidance, please contact the closest DOL Wage and Hour District Office.

Is drug testing legal?

In most cases it is legal for employers to test employees for drugs.  No Federal laws prohibit the practice.  However, there are several states that restrict or question an employer’s ability to randomly drug test employees who are not in safety-sensitive positions.  Thus, it is very important that employers familiarize themselves with the various state laws that may apply to their organization before implementing a drug-testing program.  Furthermore, under certain circumstances, someone with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction may be considered a qualified individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other Federal non-discrimination statues.  As a result, testing for alcohol without individualized suspicions (e.g. pre-employment or random) is not allowable.

How does one start a drug-testing program?

Drug testing is only one component of a comprehensive drug-free workplace program, which also includes a written policy that clearly outlines employer expectations regarding drug use; training for supervisors on the signs and symptoms of drug use and their role in enforcing the policy; education for employees about the dangers of drug use; and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide counseling and referral to employees struggling with drug problems.  DOL’s online Drug-Free Workplace Advisor helps employers develop customized drug-free workplace policies (that may or may not including drug testing) by reviewing the different components of a comprehensive policy and then generating a written policy statement based on the user’s responses to pre-set questions and statements.  (An organization’s name and logo can be incorporated and further modifications to the statement made if desired.)  If an organization already has a drug-free workplace policy in place, this tool can be used to ensure it addresses all necessary issues.  Because it is important to understand and incorporate the various state and Federal regulations that may apply, it is also recommended that legal consultation be sought before commencing a drug testing program.

A comprehensive drug-free workplace program contributes to a workplace free of the health, safety and productivity hazards caused by employees’ abuse of alcohol or drugs.  By educating employees about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and encouraging individuals with related problems to seek help, employers can protect their businesses from such dangers, retain valuable employees and help play a part in making communities safer and healthier.

Resources for a drug-free workplace:

Want to learn more?

FYI Screening is fully integrated with eScreen to provide drug-screening services to employers nationwide. eScreen’s online management system is power-packed with every tool you need to hire and maintain a healthy, drug-free workplace.

Click here to schedule a demo of our online drug testing system.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Photo credit: Horia Varlan

What Employers Need to Know About Workplace Drug Testing (Part 3)

August 28, 2012

drug screening

This is part 3 of a 4 part series on workplace drug testing.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

What drugs do tests detect?

Testing conducted according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) guidelines checks for five illicit drugs plus, in some cases, alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol, booze).  These five illicit drugs are:

  1. Amphetamines (meth, speed, crank, ecstasy)
  2. THC (cannabinoids, marijuana, hash)
  3. Cocaine (coke, crack)
  4. Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
  5. Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust)

However, most private employers are not limited in the number of substances they can test for and may include drugs that individuals legitimately and/or therapeutically take based on a physician’s prescription.  Although most private employers can test for any combination of drugs, there are commonly selected “panels.”

The typical 8-Panel Test includes the above-mentioned substances plus:

Barbiturates (phenobarbital, butalbital, secobarbital, downers)
Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers like Valium, Librium, Xanax)
Methaqualone (Quaaludes)

The typical 10-Panel Test includes the 8-Panel Test plus:

Methadone (often used to treat heroin addiction)
Propoxyphene (Darvon compounds)

Testing can also be done for:

Hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms, mescaline, peyote)
Inhalants (paint, glue, hairspray)
Anabolic steroids (synthesized, muscle-building hormones)
Hydrocodone (prescription medication known as Lortab, Vicodin, Oxycodone)
MDMA ( commonly known as Ecstasy)

How long are drugs in one’s system?

Drugs have certain “detection windows”—the amount of time after ingestion during which evidence of their use can be detected by a drug test.  Though it might not be wise to publicize detection windows and invite employees who may use drugs to push their limits, when implementing drug testing, it is important to understand them.  For instance, alcohol is absorbed and eliminated more quickly than other drugs.  This is why post-accident testing procedures often require testing for alcohol to occur within two hours.  Other drugs are eliminated from the system at different rates and thus detectable for different periods of time, often long after the drug’s effect has worn off.  The following are estimates of the length of time that certain drugs are detectable:


Alcohol – 1 oz. for 1.5 hours
Amphetamines – 48 hours
Barbiturates – 2-10 days
Benzodiazepines – 2-3 weeks
Cocaine – 2-10 days
Heroin Metabolite – less than 1 day
Morphine – 2-3 days
LSD – 8 hours
Marijuana – casual use, 3-4 days; chronic use, several weeks
Methamphetamine – 2-3 days
Methadone – 2-3 days
Phencyclidine (PCP) – 1 week

How does a drug test determine if a person has been using substances?  What are cut-off levels and what do they determine?

Aside from a breath alcohol test, drug testing does not determine impairment or current drug use.  Rather, drug testing determines a specified amount or presence of a drug or its metabolite in urine, blood or an alternative specimen.  There is a minimum measurement applied to drug testing so that only traces of a drug or its metabolite above a specified level is reported as positive.  This measure is known as a “cut-off level,” and it varies for each drug.  Setting cut-off levels involves understanding the expected results of testing and determining the needs of the employer’s drug-free workplace program.  For instance, if a cut-off level is set low, test results will come back with more “false positives” as some “passive” users could test positive.  (For example, a low cut-off level could cause a positive result from consuming poppy seeds.)  Conversely, a high cut-off level will result in more “false negatives,” and thus some users may go undetected.  However, a high cut-off level lessens the likelihood of taking action against someone based on “passive” exposure, and for this reason SAMHSA’s guidelines set cut-off levels on the high side.

Want to learn more?

FYI Screening is fully integrated with eScreen to provide drug-screening services to employers nationwide. eScreen’s online management system is power-packed with every tool you need to hire and maintain a healthy, drug-free workplace.

Click here to schedule a demo of our online drug testing system.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Photo credit: ximenacab

What Employers Need to Know About Workplace Drug Testing (Part 2)

August 21, 2012


This is part 2 of a 4 part series on workplace drug testing. Part 1 can be found here.

When are drug tests conducted?

There are a variety of circumstances under which an organization may require a drug test.  The following are the most common or widespread:

  • Pre-Employment: Pre-employment testing is conducted to prevent hiring individuals who illegally use drugs.  It typically takes place after a conditional offer of employment has been made.  Applicants agree to be tested as a condition of employment and are not hired if they fail to produce a negative test. However, it is possible for employees to prepare for a pre-employment test by stopping their drug use several days before they anticipate being tested.  Therefore, some employers test probationary employees on an unannounced basis.  Some states however, restrict this process.  Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits the use of pre-employment testing for alcohol use.
  • Reasonable Suspicion: Reasonable suspicion testing is similar to, and sometimes referred to, as “probable-cause” or “for-cause” testing and is conducted when supervisors document observable signs and symptoms that lead them to suspect drug use or a drug-free workplace policy violation.  It is extremely important to have clear, consistent definitions of what behavior justifies drug and alcohol testing and any suspicion should be corroborated by another supervisor or manager.  Since this type of testing is at the discretion of management, it requires careful, comprehensive supervisor training.  In addition, it is advised that employees who are suspected of drug use or a policy violation not return to work while awaiting the results of reasonable suspicion testing.
  • Post-Accident: Since property damage or personal injury may result from accidents, testing following an accident can help determine whether drugs and/or alcohol were a factor.  It is important to establish objective criteria that will trigger a post-accident test and how and by whom they will be determined and documented.  Examples of criteria used by employers include:  fatalities; injuries that require anyone to be removed from the scene for medical care; damage to vehicles or property above a specified monetary amount; and citations issued by the police.  Although the results of a post-accident test determine drug use, a positive test result in and of itself can not prove that drug use caused an accident.  When post-accident testing is conducted, it is a good idea for employers not to allow employees involved in any accident to return to work prior to or following the testing.  Employers also need to have guidelines to specify how soon following an accident testing must occur so results are relevant.  Substances remain in a person’s system for various amounts of time, and it is usually recommended that post-accident testing be done within 12 hours.  Some employers expand the test trigger to incidents even if an accident or injury was averted and hence use term “post-incident.”
  • Random: Random testing is performed on an unannounced, unpredictable basis on employees whose identifying information (e.g., social security number or employee number) has been placed in a testing pool from which a scientifically arbitrary selection is made.  This selection is usually computer generated to ensure that it is indeed random and that each person of the workforce population has an equal chance of being selected for testing, regardless of whether that person was recently tested or not.  Because this type of testing has no advance notice, it serves as a deterrent.
  • Periodic: Periodic testing is usually scheduled in advance and uniformly administered.  Some employers use it on an annual basis, especially if physicals are required for the job.  Such tests generally are more accepted by employees than unannounced tests, but employees can prepare them by stopping their drug use several days beforehand.
  • Return-to-Duty: Return-to-duty testing involves a one-time, announced test when an employee who has tested positive has completed the required treatment for substance abuse and is ready to return to the workplace. Some employers also use this type of testing for any employee who has been absent for an extended period of time.
  • Other: Other types of tests are also used by some employers.  For example, follow-up testing or post-rehabilitation testing is conducted periodically after an employee returns to the workplace upon completing rehabilitation for a drug or alcohol problem.  It is administered on an unannounced, unpredictable basis for a period of time specified in the drug-free workplace policy.  Another type of testing, blanket testing, is similar to random testing in that it is unannounced and not based on individual suspicion; however, everyone at a worksite is tested rather than a randomly selected percentage.  Other types of testing include voluntary, probationary, pre-promotion and return-after-illness testing.

What are the different methods of drug testing?

There are a number of different bodily specimens that can be chemically tested to detect evidence of recent drug use.  Although some state laws dictate which types of tests can be used, a number of options are technologically feasible.  Urine is the most commonly used specimen for illicit drugs, reflecting SAMHSA’s guidelines, and breath is the most common for alcohol, reflecting DOT’s guidelines.

  • Urine: Results of a urine test show the presence or absence of drug metabolites in a person’s urine.  Metabolites are drug residues that remain in the body for some time after the effects of a drug have worn off.  It is important to note that a positive urine test does not necessarily mean a person was under the influence of drugs at the time of the test.  Rather, it detects and measures use of a particular drug within the previous few days and has become the defacto evidence of current use.  Because alcohol passes rapidly through the system, urine tests must be conducted very quickly after alcohol consumption in order to ensure any degree of accuracy.  For this reason, urine tests are generally not helpful in detecting alcohol use as opposed to illicit and prescription drug use, which is more easily traced in urine.
  • Breath: A breath-alcohol test is the most common test for finding out how much alcohol is currently in the blood.  The person being tested blows into a breath-alcohol device, and the results are given as a number, known as the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), which shows the level of alcohol in the blood at the time the test was taken.  BAC levels have been correlated with impairment, and the legal limit of 0.08 for driving has been set in all states.  Under DOT regulations, a BAC of 0.02 is high enough to stop someone from performing a safety-sensitive task for a specific amount of time (usually between 8 and 24 hours) and a BAC reading of 0.04 or higher is considered to be a positive drug test and requires immediate removal from safety-sensitive functions.  Under DOT regulations, a person who tests at the 0.04 BAC level may not resume job duties until a specific return-to-duty process has been successfully completed.

Other alternative specimens that can be used for detecting the use of selected drugs of abuse include blood, hair, oral fluids and sweat.

  • Blood: A blood test measures the actual amount of alcohol or other drugs in the blood at the time of the test.  Blood samples provide an accurate measure of the physiologically active drug present in a person at the time the sample is drawn.  Although blood samples are a better indicator of recent consumption than urine samples, there is a lack of published data correlating blood levels for drugs and impairment with the same degree of certainty that has been established for alcohol.  In cases of serious injury or death as the result of an accident, the only way to determine legal intoxication is through a blood specimen.  There is also a very short detection period, as most drugs are quickly cleared from the blood and deposited into the urine.
  • Hair: Analysis of hair provides a much longer “testing window,” giving a more complete drug-use history going back as far as 90 days.  Like urine testing, hair testing does not provide evidence of current impairment, but rather only past use of a specific drug.  Hair testing cannot be used to detect for alcohol use.  Hair testing is the least invasive form of drug testing, therefore privacy issues are decreased.
  • Oral Fluids: Saliva, or oral fluids, collected from the mouth also can be used to detect traces of drugs and alcohol.  Oral fluids are easy to collect (a swab of the inner cheek is the most common collection method), harder to adulterate or substitute, and may be better at detecting specific substances, including marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines/methamphetamines.  Because drugs do not remain in oral fluids as long as they do in urine, this method shows promise in determining current use and impairment.
  • Sweat: Another type of drug test consists of a skin patch that measures drugs in sweat.  The patch, which looks like a large adhesive bandage, is applied to the skin and worn for some length of time.  A gas-permeable membrane on the patch protects the tested area from dirt and other contaminants.  Although relatively easy to administer, this method has not been widely used in workplaces and is more often used to maintain compliance with probation and parole.

Want to learn more?

FYI Screening is fully integrated with eScreen to provide drug-screening services to employers nationwide. eScreen’s online management system is power-packed with every tool you need to hire and maintain a healthy, drug-free workplace.

Click here to schedule a demo of our online drug testing system.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Photo Credit: Francis Storr

What Employers Need to Know About Workplace Drug Testing -Part 1

August 15, 2012


This is part 1 of a 4 part series on workplace drug testing.

Drug testing is one action an employer can take to determine if employees or job applicants are using drugs.  It can identify evidence of recent use of alcohol, prescription drugs and illicit drugs.  Currently, drug testing does not test for impairment or whether a person’s behavior is, or was, impacted by drugs.  Drug testing works best when implemented based on a clear, written policy that is shared with all employees, along with employee education about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, supervisor training on the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse, and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide help for employees who may have an alcohol or drug problem.

Why do employers drug test?

Alcohol and drug abuse creates significant safety and health hazards and can result in decreased productivity and poor employee morale.  It also can lead to additional costs in the form of health care claims, especially short-term disability claims.

Common reasons employers implement drug testing are to:

  • Deter employees from abusing alcohol and drugs
  • Prevent hiring individuals who use illegal drugs
  • Be able to identify early and appropriately refer employees who have drug and/or alcohol problems
  • Provide a safe workplace for employees
  • Protect the general public and instill consumer confidence that employees are working safely
  • Comply with State laws or Federal regulations
  • Benefit from Workers’ Compensation Premium Discount programs

How is drug testing conducted and how accurate is it?

Generally, most private employers have a fair amount of latitude in implementing drug testing as they see fit for their organization, unless they are subject to certain Federal regulations, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) drug-testing rules for employees in safety-sensitive positions.  Federal agencies conducting drug testing must follow standardized procedures established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

While private employers are not required to follow these guidelines, doing so can help them stay on safe legal ground.  Court decisions have supported following these guidelines, and as a result, many employers choose to follow them.  These Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing (also called SAMHSA’s guidelines) include having a Medical Review Officer (MRO) evaluate tests.  They also identify the five substances tested for in Federal drug-testing programs and require the use of drug labs certified by SAMHSA. These five illicit drugs are:  Amphetamines (meth, speed, crank, ecstasy),  THC (cannabinoids, marijuana, hash), Cocaine (coke, crack), Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine) and Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust).

The most common method of drug testing is urinalysis. FYI Screening offers an internet-based drug screen system through it’s fully integrated partner, eScreen. eScreen developed eCup which is a patented urine collection device designed to allow for rapid, under-seal screening. A major advantage to the “smart” cup is that it doesn’t require human intervention or interpretation—which means no chance of human error. Our drug screening system uses drug labs certified by SAMHSA and a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to evaluate tests.

Who is allowed access to the results of a drug test?

The result of a drug test may be considered personal health information. Consequently, there may be restrictions on how and whether such information (as well as other information related to an employee’s history of alcohol or drug use) can be shared with others.  This is why employees who undergo a drug test generally must sign a release (usually at the time of the test) in order for their employer to receive the results.  For more information about issues related to the release of health information, contact DHHS.  This agency administers the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which dictates under what circumstances and to whom health information may be released.  More information about this issue can be found on Office of Civil Rights HIPAA Web page.

Want to learn more?

FYI Screening is fully integrated with eScreen to provide drug-screening services to employers nationwide. eScreen’s online management system is power-packed with every tool you need to hire and maintain a healthy, drug-free workplace.

Click here to schedule a demo of our online drug testing system.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Want to Hire and Maintain a Healthy, Drug-Free Workplace?

July 16, 2012


FYI Screening is pleased to announce a new integration with eScreen to provide drug-screening services to employers nationwide. eScreen’s online management system is power-packed with every tool you need to hire and maintain a healthy, drug-free workplace.

We make drug screening easy.

Originally designed as the industry’s only paperless drug-testing solution for workplace screening, eScreen today offers a full-service product line. You’ll receive instrumented rapid urine drug screens, electronic medical services, compliance administration and other support. No matter what program you need—DOT regulated, nonregulated, drugs of abuse screening, medical services, random testing, physical exams and more—FYI Screening and eScreen have you covered.

Want to learn more?

For a demo on how the eScreen system can better manage your hiring program click here.

Photo Credit: singsing_sky

8 Tips On How Employers Can Minimize Risk Of Workplace Violence

January 22, 2010


I just read an excellent article from the The Houston Chronicle entitled “Employers can minimize risk of workplace violence.”

The author stresses these important points:

“While violence cannot always be anticipated, this does not relieve employers of their obligation to provide a safe workplace. First, federal law requires it. With the Department of Labor adding investigators and stepping up workplace safety enforcement, compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations should be a management priority. Second, workers compensation insurance provides Texas employers only limited protection against liability from the inevitable lawsuits following a workplace tragedy.”

Here are the the 8 Tips On How Employers Can Minimize Risk Of Workplace Violence from the article:

  1. Accept reality: The recent shootings reinforce the fact that the risk of workplace violence is omnipresent. Employers must be proactive to prevent or minimize exposure to such incidents.
  2. Use effective pre-employment documents and conduct background checks: An effective application coupled with valid legal releases and disclaimers provide key information on the applicant. Employers should conduct background investigations to discover prior convictions, litigation history, motor vehicle records, employment references, credit history, education records and other relevant background information concerning the applicant.
  3. Establish policies on workplace violence: Employers should establish a written zero-tolerance position on violence, threats or abusive language and make clear that any violation of these rules can be grounds for termination. A workplace violence policy should also include a procedure to confidentially report threats.
  4. Conduct substance-abuse testing: Private employers should test all applicants and employees for substance abuse to the extent allowed by law. Negative test results should be a condition of employment.
  5. Develop procedures for investigating threats: These procedures should include specific guidelines for conducting an investigation and interviewing witnesses and the individual who allegedly made the threat. To the extent necessary, employers should retain security consultants, psychologists, attorneys or other professionals for advice on how to handle threats quickly, effectively and legally.
  6. Train supervisors and employees: Supervisors should be instructed to identify violence risks and report all threats to management immediately. Supervisors should be trained in conflict resolution, stress management, managing change in the workplace and recognizing the early warning signs of violent employees. They should also be trained to be sensitive to the fact that seemingly small issues can suddenly escalate into workplace problems. Employees should be trained regarding their responsibility to report threats or violence.
  7. Implement an employee assistance program: EAPs can help employees who are having a difficult time handling stress in their lives.
  8. Audit and improve security measures: Employers should establish a relationship with local law enforcement officials and a security consultant. Employers should also conduct an audit to determine areas of vulnerability and/or procedural weaknesses. Basic systems for protecting property, such as lighting, pass keys or cards, intercoms, employee identification, surveillance or alarm equipment and other systems or devices should be considered.

Related Posts From FYI Screening:

Photo credit: Flickr

Best Employee Screening Articles For August & September 2009

October 1, 2009

human_resourcesIn case you missed any of our employee screening articles for August and September, here’s a quick recap of our most popular:

Smart, Compliant Hiring Decisions Made Easy

FYI Screening, Inc. is a leading provider of on-demand, easy to use employee screening solutions.

Photo credit:  net_efekt

More Background Checks

September 25, 2009


It’s not everyday that I see a headline like this  in our local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch.

Last night the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities voted to require background checks every three years on all their employees.  Previously, background checks were conducted upon hiring and the county relied on the honor system for employees to report any offense after that.

This is a good reminder that your organization should have a Post-Hire Screening Program in place.

A Post-Hire Screening Program (also called recurring screening) is considered a best practice for employers. It ensures a safe workplace and helps reduce the risk of a negligent retention lawsuit. Conducting checks on all new hires is essential. Keep in mind, that a lot can happen in the years after a new hire comes aboard. Companies should consider protecting themselves with periodic post-hire criminal checks and drug screening.

Related Posts From FYI Screening:

New Employee Screening Trend -Second Chance For Ex-Offenders

June 17, 2009


There is a growing trend in employment screening that places more responsibility on employers to analyze a past criminal record to determine whether there is a business justification not to hire a person.

From The Columbus Dispatch:

Schools Could Hire Former Criminals

Custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and cafeteria workers could work in schools even with a past drug or theft conviction under a new rule being considered by the State Board of Education.

Committing a sex crime, kidnapping and murder still would prevent someone from working in a school. But some people who have committed nonviolent crimes — including robbery, cultivating marijuana or drug trafficking — could show they have been “rehabilitated” under the proposed rule.

The proposal would allow people with those less-serious convictions that occurred well in the past — ranging from five to 20 years, depending on the type of crime — work in a school if they can show evidence that they have walked the straight and narrow since. It would apply to new applicants and current employees.

Read the article here.

Related Posts From FYI Screening:

Photo Credits: krispdk

The One Thing Not To Post On Twitter

June 8, 2009


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