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Understanding the Pros and Cons of Employee Drug Testing

Employee Drug Testing in Western New York

For years, many businesses have screened new hires as well as current employees for drug use. However, with the legalization of marijuana in numerous states, many organizations are rethinking their policies. So, what should your company do? Here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons of employee drug testing.

What Shows Up on a Drug Test?

Although most people use the phrase “drug test” broadly, different drug tests detect different substances. For instance, a 10-panel test screens for marijuana, cocaine, opioids, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, barbiturates, phencyclidine (PCP), methadone, methaqualone and propoxyphene. There also are 4, 5, 6, 7, 13 and 20-panel tests. Plus, sometimes, companies will drop a panel. Thus, it IS possible to drug test your employees without screening for marijuana.

Pros of Employee Drug Testing

  • Enhanced Safety
    Someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol is more likely to cause an accident. This especially is dangerous in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, healthcare and education. In these cases, organizations have a duty to keep their workers, their customers and the public safe. A comprehensive drug-testing program can encourage employees to make responsible decisions about their substance use. And this, in turn, will improve overall safety, decrease the number of accidents, lower insurance costs and increase profits.
  • A Healthier Work Environment
    Consider the following scenarios. 1) A workplace bathroom always smells like pot. 2) An employee reports to work every Monday morning visibility hungover. 3) Workers routinely brag about their recreational drug use. Many people would find these situations not only uncomfortable but also demoralizing. As a result, promoting healthier choices can create a more positive and productive working environment. In addition, if a worker does fail a drug test, your organization could provide support. Many businesses offer mental health counseling and drug rehabilitation programs as part of their compensation packages. So, if someone is struggling with substance abuse, they have a better chance of receiving the help they need.

Cons of Employee Drug Testing

  • Testing Limitations
    Unlike a breathalyzer, which measures someone’s blood alcohol content at that moment, drug screens may find substances ingested weeks ago. The detection window for marijuana is a perfect example. Depending on the frequency of use and type of screening, someone could test positive days or even months after smoking a marijuana cigarette. This presents problems particularly in states or regions where marijuana is legal. After all, businesses don’t fire people for having a beer on a Saturday night. Yet, someone who consumed an edible after work might suffer the consequences of failing a drug test the next day.
  • A Smaller Talent Pool
    Labor shortages during the pandemic have discouraged drug testing programs too. In areas where marijuana is legal, many employees don’t want to be bothered with regular screening. They’ll simply find work at elsewhere. Often, this leaves organizations that have stricter policies with fewer applicants in their talent pool.

Questions to Ask Before Implementing Drug Testing

  • Is It Required or Banned?
    Drug testing is mandated for some jobs. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Association has specific screening requirements for employees who operate commercial vehicles. On the other hand, several states including New York have banned drug testing for cannabis unless other laws require it. Thus, even if your business decides to rethink your drug screening protocols, you must first familiarize yourself with the rules.
  • Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?
    The answer to this question depends on your industry, employees’ roles and your company culture. An accounting firm with mostly office workers will have a significantly different outlook than a manufacturer with potentially dangerous machinery. Ultimately, your organization needs to consider what’s best for individuals, your overall team and the public.

Tips for Implementing a Successful Program

  • Advertise the Benefits
    The primarily goal of a drug testing program should be to make your business better. It’s NOT a way to catch or punish your employees. Yet, without proper explanation, your workers may feel as though they are under constant scrutiny. Therefore, be sure to justify WHY you drug test. Frequently show and tell how your policies contribute to a safer, healthier and more productive workplace.
  • Clarify Your Expectations
    Before they accept their job, your employees should completely understand your organization’s testing policies. Knowing what you test for and how often you drug test helps them to recognize whether they are a good fit for the position. In fact, many companies outline drug testing requirements in their job descriptions. This ensures everyone is on the same page.
  • Establish Consequences
    Similarly, individuals should know what happens if they are out of compliance. This information needs to be clearly communicated and documented. Keep in mind, the rules may vary considerably from one business to another. For instance, a trucker who tested positive for cocaine after an accident should not continue driving. However, a call center representative who is admittedly struggling with pain management medication could be a candidate for counseling.

Do You Need to Run Employee Drug Testing in Western New York?

Metrodata Services would be happy to help! We provide comprehensive pre-employment and employment screening services including criminal record checks, credit reports, drug testing and more! Contact us today to set up your complete background check program!

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