When Is the Best Time for Employees’ Drug Test

Have you ever wondered what an employer drug test is all about? Do you also know that employers can drug test employees periodically? Some state and federal laws allow an employee drug test for some types of positions and jobs.

Usually, companies notify prospective applicants that they conduct an employee drug test beforehand. It is generally stated in the job posting or as a requirement for the initial application process.

There are different reasons employers drug tests their employees. Among all other reasons, the safety of the working environment is the chief reason.

It is essential to understand that the application and enforcement of drug testing procedures may differ according to state and federal laws. In most cases, the employer has to ensure a drug-free working environment. 

What is an Employee Drug Test?

It involves taking a sample from the employee, which may include hair, blood, urine, or saliva, and analyzing it for the presence of alcohol or other illegal substances.

Types of Employee Drug Test

There are different types of drug tests available today. While urine test is the most common drug test for employment, below are the various kinds of tests a company may utilize: 

  • Blood drug test
  • Urine drug test
  • Saliva drug screening
  • Breath alcohol test
  • Hair drug test
  • Sweat drug screening

Some of The Common Drugs Companies Look Out for During a Drug Test

Besides alcohol, there are other types of substances that companies look out for in a test. Some of these substances may be legal, while others may be illegal.

If you are currently on certain kinds of prescription medication, it is advisable to seek more information on the list of drugs your employer will be testing for during the drug test.

Some of the common drugs companies watch out for during a drug test include Amphetamines, Cocaine, Opiates, Phencyclidine, and THCs.

A company may decide to conduct further tests after the initial test using the following standard protocol:

The 4-panel drug test 

The 4-panel drug test is a standard process for drug screening. The process requires the collection of urine specimens to determine the presence of drug metabolites like:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP) 

Employers can also pay for a 4-panel drug test to ascertain the presence of other substances like:

  • Methadone
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ecstasy
  • Oxycodone

The 8-panel drug test 

The 8-panel test determines other substances like:

  • Barbiturates like butalbital, downers, phenobarbital, secobarbital, etc.
  • Benzodiazepines like Librium, Valium, Xanax etc.
  • Methaqualone like Quaaludes

The 10-panel drug test 

The 10-Panel test protocol consists of the 8-Panel test and the following:

  • Test for Methadone (utilized in the treatment of heroin addiction)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon compounds).

Additional testing

Depending on the nature of the job you are applying for, the company may decide to carry out additional tests for the following:

  • Anabolic steroids like muscle-building hormones and synthesized steroids
  • Alcohol
  • Hallucinogens
  • Hydrocodone
  • Inhalants
  • MDMA
  • Nicotine

Drug and Alcohol Test—Employee Guideline 

It is usual for employers to outline their drug testing policy clearly in their employee handbook/guidelines. Some state laws may permit a random selection of employees for drug testing at any given time.

In many states, it is okay for employers to conduct a drug test on an employee who acts seemingly like one under the influence of alcohol or drug on the job. Employers can also order a drug test on employees who repeatedly arrive at work late for no reason or are absent from work with no proper permission, or exhibit the qualities of someone on a substance.

Where the law permits, employers can conduct employee drug tests on employees before a promotion. The case is also applicable when an accident occurs on the job.

Also, in cases where drug testing constitutes a condition to remain on the job as a staff, the employer has the right to conduct one. Employees that refuse or fail a drug test may be subject to disciplinary measures or have their employment terminated

You can read this: Pre Employment Drug Test: All you need to know

When is Drug Screening for Employment Required?

Getting a job in many private companies and establishments does not require drug screening. However, the law requires companies with businesses in aviation, defense, safety, transportation, and transit to conduct a drug and alcohol test for their employees occupying sensitive positions. A drug test can either come at the beginning of your offer of employment or during your employment term/period.

Industries like hospitals, schools, and universities are also required to conduct drug and alcohol tests for their employees. For people working at Federal, State, and County levels, drug and alcohol test forms part of their employment process.

Below are the few times when employee drug test becomes necessary in an organization.

#1. Pre-employment Drug Testing—Drugs and Alcohol

According to some state laws, a drug test for a job is a part of the employment process. Pre-employment drug testing is conducting a drug test after the prospective candidate has received an offer of employment. A failed drug test can lead to the withdrawal of an offer of employment.

If you are on prescription drugs before the test, it is essential to check for the kind of rug test the employer will be conducting and inform the company beforehand. Disclosing your medication earlier will save you the embarrassment of failing a drug test downright.

 Some employers are more lenient when it comes to drug testing. In such cases, they make exceptions for those on temporal medication and people under the supervision of a doctor for chronic conditions. If your medication can lead to a hazardous situation for you and other employees, it is best to know that earlier. 

For more information: about your rights as an employee or an applicant, consult your state Department of Labor.  

#2. Random Drug Testing 

There are instances when organizations implement random drug testing. The employers pick some of the staff members in on particular orders for drug testing. The employee type or level does not matter; in this case, the employer can select anybody. Many organizations state their random test procedure in their employee handbook.  

#3. Post-Accident Drug Testing 

In case of a workplace accident, the company may decide to test the employee for alcohol and drugs. The testing does not necessarily imply that the employee indulges in drugs or alcohol. However, it is usually a standard approach to ensuring a safe working environment. In post-accident drug testing, the employer may schedule a drug test for the victims according to the stipulations of state or federal laws. The test usually comes up within 12 hours of the accident to ensure an accurate result.

#4. Periodic Drug Testing 

 While it is standard in some places for employers to drug test after a new hiring process, they also have the right to conduct a drug test periodically. For example, if the employers suspect the use of the drug by an employee, they can decide to schedule a drug test. In some states, employers have the right to conduct monthly, bimonthly, or yearly drug screenings for their employees. Periodic drug testing helps to keep the use of substances in check.

What to Expect When It Comes to Employee Drug Testing

It is common practice for companies that conduct drug testing to provide their employee with a guideline on how to prepare for it.

The guidelines may comprise f some medications and substances that may negatively affect your drug test result. It is advisable to abstain from such substances for at least 24 hours before the test.

Employee Drug Testing Laws

Drug testing laws differ from one state to the other. Some states have limits to how and when employers drug test their employees.

For instance, according to North Carolina ACLU, all public and private employees have the right to conduct an employee drug test without any boundaries. However, only certified laboratories can conduct a drug test.

Conversely, places like Ohio require employers to provide advance notice before testing an applicant.

Also, companies can only carry out drug tests after the employee receives an employment offer. The law also permits employers to conduct a drug test if they suspect (reasonably) that an employee indulges in drug use, after an accident or as part of a continuation of a treatment program.

Note: if you want to know more about the kind of substances your company might be testing for, you can check with your state drug laws for more information. 

Why Do Employers Conduct a Drug Test? 

There are many reasons why a company will conduct drug testing for its employees. They include ensuring employment accuracy, compliance with government and state laws, and ensuring a safe working environment for the employees.

Drug abuse can put the lives of other employees and customers in danger. It is one of the major causes of on-the-job accidents and increases the risk of injuries.

Many cases of absence without a formal excuse result from substance abuse. Therefore, most employers conduct drug testing to nip some of these identified problems in the bud.

In high-risk jobs like the aviation industry, employers will conduct drug tests to ensure the safety of their customers and other staff members.  

What is The Benefit of Drug Testing?

Employee drug testing helps the employer know if the employee is under the influence of any illegal substance/drugs.

Drug testing also ensures that the working environment is free from drugs and safe for work. It is a great tool to deter drug users in an organization. Drug testing can also help an organization to meet more deadlines and improve productivity.

Also, you can check this: 15 Best Jobs in India with High Salary | 2022


According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,

“Cannabis continues to be the most widely used drug worldwide. UNODC estimates that almost 4 percent (range: 2.8–5.1 percent) of the global population aged 15–64 years used cannabis at least once in 2019, the equivalent of some 200 million people (range: 141 million–256 million).” (2021) 

Close investigation shows that most drug users fall within the active work age. Therefore, some state laws stipulate employee drug testing as part of the employment process. The case is stricter for those working in sensitive areas like aviation and healthcare. Therefore, an employer drug test is more or less a requirement for certain key work positions.

There are many instances where the employer has the right to conduct employee drug tests. When employers drug test applicants before they officially resume work, we refer to the process as a pre-employment drug test.

However, there are some states where the laws restrict employee drug tests. In such places, the law requires that the employer provide official notice to employees before the testing. Other states require the employer to meet some criteria before drug testing employees.

There are different methods of drug testing. They include the collection of urine samples, saliva, blood sample, and hair follicle testing. Nonetheless, most organizations rely on urinalysis to test for drug and other substance use.

To best prepare for drug testing, it is essential to understand your state laws regarding drug testing. An understanding of your state’s employment laws can be beneficial.



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