What Does Reasonable Cause Testing Mean?
Reasonable cause testing in the workplace refers to selectively performing a drug or alcohol test on an employee because an authorized supervisor, or other credible party, has reason to believe that the individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Unlike random drug testing, in which testing is conducted without any individual suspicion of drug or alcohol use, reasonable cause testing is only permitted in instances where this suspicion exists.
WorkplaceTesting Explains Reasonable Cause Testing
The standard of reasonableness required and who make order an employee to submit to testing are defined by each company’s policies, practices and contractual agreements with employees and labor unions. In addition, state and federal law may impose requirements on when and how reasonable cause testing in the workplace may be conducted. In most instances, a determination of reasonable cause will require direct observation and identification of the behavior, appearance or conduct of an employee giving rise to the observer’s suspicion. Rumors of drug or alcohol use and “gut feelings” are not sufficient to justify reasonable cause testing. Employers must adhere to all state and federal laws when conducting reasonable cause testing in order to avoid claims of discrimination or other legal ramifications.
Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines require reasonable cause testing for drug or alcohol use for covered employees, those engaged in safety-sensitive transportation related tasks, under certain defined circumstances. These rules further require that supervisors or other designated employees must undergo specific training to learn the signs and symptoms associated with drug or alcohol use to be qualified to make a reasonable cause determination. The amount and type of training vary slightly among DOT agencies.
Because the use of alcohol is legal, a reasonable cause test for alcohol use may be ordered only when an employee appears to be under the influence immediately before, during, or just after the performance of safety-sensitive duties. In contract, reasonable cause testing for suspected drug use may be conducted at any time a trained observer believes an employee has used illegal drugs. Whenever an employee is identified for reasonable cause testing, he or she will be removed from any safety-sensitive duties until the testing process has been completed.