This is part 4 of a 4 part series on workplace drug testing.
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:
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Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Photo credit: Horia Varlan