There are no legal requirements for most private employers to have a drug and alcohol testing policy. Exceptions are companies with federal contracts or grants and those with employees working in security or safety-sensitive positions, such as those governed by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Although non-DOT employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to their drug testing programs, they also lack the inherent protections offered by the stricter DOT regulations. This means that non-DOT employers should seriously consider establishing clear and comprehensive policies around their drug testing programs that cover all aspects from drug education to the consequences of a positive drug test. It's also critical that these policies are written with all applicable federal, state and local laws in mind.
Many policies start with a statement of purpose that lays out the company's reasons for establishing the policy. The purpose will also include a description of how it will be implemented across the company. These are optional components, but there are other, critical components you should consider adding to protect your workers and your company.
Here are the key components of a strong workplace drug and alcohol testing policy.
Statement of Goals
What are you trying to achieve with your testing program? This can include satisfying the requirements of state and federal laws. It can also include general statements related to worker health and safety and specific statements that focus in on the prevention of accidents or the reduction of absenteeism. If your workers understand what you are trying to achieve with your testing program, it can be much easier for them to accept and comply with any rules or requests.
Avoid a vague, generalized policy that lacks substance or clarity. These types of policies do nothing to help you curb substance abuse and are of no help to you legally.
Provide specifics with a section on definitions. This is where you lay out how your company defines substance abuse and prohibited behaviors. You will also want to list the drugs that are banned in your workspace, precisely what you will be testing for and what kind of tests (urine, hair or saliva) will be conducted.
You may also wish to include a statement regarding the misuse of prescription medications or their use by workers in safety-sensitive positions. These are especially important if you are a DOT employer and have elected to test beyond DOT requirements.
Include the types of drug and alcohol tests you intend to conduct on both current and potential employees and additional information about how you will conduct each test. These tests can include:
- Pre-Employment Testing
- Reasonable Suspicion Testing
- Random Testing
- Post-Incident Testing
- Follow-Up Testing/Rehabilitation
Also, in this section, you should define exactly who your policy will apply to and where it will be applied. Does it apply to workers only when they are on duty or when they are on-site? What if they use company vehicles off-site or if they work in an alternate location?
Identify who in your organization will be responsible for enforcing your policy and clearly define their roles and responsibilities as well.
Education and Awareness
Include a section in your policy that describes how you will inform your employees of your drug and alcohol testing policy. This has a two-fold effect. First, it ensures that your employees are aware of your policies concerning drug and alcohol testing, which may, by itself, act as a deterrent. Second, it ensures you comply with worker protection and other legislation by making sure all employees are aware of the policy.
There are multiple approaches you can take to disseminating information about your policy, and it's probably a good idea to employ several of these to ensure the information reaches everyone. If you are an existing company implementing a new policy, consider a companywide announcement followed up with a Q&A session in smaller team or staff meetings.
If you have an existing policy, it is crucial not to get complacent and assume that people just know about it. Existing staff will need occasional reminders, and new staff need to be informed. Consider having all employees, whether new or old, sign a receipt stating that they have read the policy and understand it. Here are a few additional approaches to getting the word out:
- Supervisor training
- Onboarding of new employees
- Health and safety training
- Employee handbook
- Posters in employee locker or lunchrooms
- Information sent via email, intranet or other points of contact
Benefits and Assurances
In this section, you should include two specific statements that assure workers you will protect their confidentiality and that the policy will be implemented consistently and fairly. This means that the consequences for employees who test positive, for example, will be the same, regardless of what their position is in the organization.
Also in this section, you should describe how the company will assist employees who need help or are in treatment or recovery programs. This is an excellent place to include details about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you have one or, at least, where your employees can locate additional information about your EAP.
This is a critical section of your workplace policy. It is where you will lay out all of the implications for employees who contradict the policy. It should also include a process for appeals if you decide to have one.
Your description of consequences should also include what will happen in each of the following cases:
- The use of drugs in the workplace
- Possession of illegal substances in the workplace
- Receipt of a verified positive drug or alcohol test result
- Refusal to take a test
- Receipt of negative dilute test or suspicion of cheating
Keep Your Workplace Safe
A robust workplace drug and alcohol testing policy can help keep your workplace safe for everyone and help protect your company from unnecessary legal costs. Ensure yours is solid by incorporating these components.