The Pros and Cons of Workplace Drug Testing

Companies considering workplace drug testing programs should weigh the risks and rewards of implementing or not implementing testing.

“Employers must provide a safe work environment, and they want to ensure their employees are productive, but is maintaining a drug-testing program in furtherance of these goals worth the hassle?” Lisa Nagele-Piazza asks in a SHRM article. “The answer may depend on the workplace.”

Even the number of companies that choose to have – or not have – workplace drug testing programs is in dispute.

On the high end, a Society for Human Resource Management report found in 2006 that among private employers:

  • 84 percent conduct pre-employment testing
  • 39 percent conduct random screening of employees
  • 58 percent require drug test after on-the-job accidents

On the low end, however, the American Addiction Centers did an analysis of job postings on Glassdoor and found:

  • 1.47 percent of the recent of job postings mentioned a requirement of pre-employment drug testing
  • 0.66 percent of the recent job postings mentioned regular workplace drug testing of employees

Workplace Drug Testing Varies by Company

While the actual number of U.S. companies that have workplace drug testing programs in place likely falls between those high-end and low-end numbers, policies vary even between large companies.

Some companies have no known drug testing policies, according to Yahoo Finance, such as:

  • Starbucks
  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Twitter

On the other hand, some companies such as Amazon have pre-employment drug testing and random drug testing once a month. Other well-known companies with pre-employment and random drug testing include:

  • Bank of America
  • Best Buy
  • Comcast
  • Pizza Hut
  • Waffle House

4 Risk vs. Reward Factor for Workplace Drug Testing

Companies considering implementing a drug testing program should weigh four key risk vs. reward factors:national-cancer-institute-uVnRa6mOLOM-unsplash

  • Risk Mitigation
  • Cost
  • Speed
  • Employee/Candidate Experience

Dr. Todd Simo told SHRM that “Companies that value risk mitigation should really consider a drug-free-workplace program. Drug testing is effective in preventing accidents, health issues and costs, absenteeism, and litigation, he said, noting that screening can also protect employees from injury and improve productivity.”

On the negative side of drug testing is the cost and time it takes along with the potential to lose qualified hires or current employees over testing protocols.

When Should Companies Drug Test?

Companies typically drug test employees or potential hires at four different timeframes:

  • Pre-Employment Drug Test
  • Random Drug Test
  • Post-Accident Drug Test
  • Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test

The pre-employment and post-accident drug testing are the most objective.

For new hires, drug testing would clearly be spelled out in the application and interview process and the actual testing should come after a conditional job offer has been made but before the first day of work.

"Testing an applicant is different than testing an employee," Kathryn Russo, an attorney with New York law firm Jackson Lewis told SHRM. "They don't work for you yet."

For post-accident, any employee experiencing an accident at work, as defined by the drug testing policy, would be subjected to a drug test. Some companies, for example, limit post-accident drug testing to those accidents that involve recorded injuries. Testing needs to be done soon after an accident, ideally within 12 hours.

Companies that have random drug testing and suspicious behavior drug testing need clear-cut and spelled out testing policies and procedures to avoid having action taken against them by employees.

“'Multistate employers must be really conversant with the laws in the locations where they operate because they vary so much,” Russo told SHRM.

Standards for reasonable suspicion testing, for example, could include signs of drug or alcohol influence such as slurred speech or loss of coordination. For many companies, the rewards of a drug-free workplace outweigh the risks.

Contact PRT Staffing today to find out how we can help you build the right team including the facilitation of pre-employment drug testing.