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Drug Testing Policies -- What Does an Employer Need to Know?

Sherri Fluitt
by Sherri Fluitt on March 8, 2016


Drug_Testing_Policies.jpgThe use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and abuse of prescription medications has entered the workplace at an alarming rate.

The fact that more and more states are legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana may not only increase the use of drugs, but also increases the risk of employees reporting to work impaired.Know this: As an employer you have a right to ensure a safe working environment and to employ staff that is free from the effects of substance abuse.

However, having this right doesn’t make the issue of drugs in the workplace any less difficult to tackle--but you’re not alone. Many states do not have state laws governing drug free workplace policies which makes it even more important for employers in those states to run their policy by a HR professional.

To help clear the haze on this issue, we have outlined some tips to offer guidance on developing an effective drug use/testing policy.  

Marijuana Laws Explained

Despite state legislation, it’s important to understand that Schedule 1 of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970 still currently lists marijuana as being 100% illegal. Below, you can see a graph from Inside Gov that details each state’s legislation:


In light of this information, the real question still remains: What does this mean for you as an employer?

Tips for Your Drug Testing Policy

As mentioned before, regardless of marijuana legalization, you still have full authority to enforce a drug-free workplace. However, this must be explicitly outlined in your policy. Otherwise, things could get dicey.

Here are some important tips when implementing/enforcing drug testing:

  • Give a 60-day notice to all existing employees of your company that you’ve adopted a Standard of Conduct formally stating substance abuse will not be tolerated. Then, explain in the notice they will be subject to drug and/or alcohol testing, in certain situations, as outlined in your policy.
  • For new hires, ensure you are undergoing thorough background checks and screening.
  • In states where marijuana has been legalized an employer must specify in their policy that the use of medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana is not tolerated. Without that verbiage an employee could dispute any disciplinary action taken for a positive result, and likely win, even though it is still an illegal drug under federal law.
  • Once a drug free workplace policy is implemented, employers need to have the employees sign the consent form acknowledging that they have been made aware and have read the policy.
  • Moving forward, have employees sign acknowledgement forms any time you make a change to an existing policy.
  • Consistency and documentation for drug testing is key

These are guidelines for how to make your drug testing policy more effective. To cover all of your bases, it’s highly advised you reach out to an HR professional for thorough advice and guidance.

Protect Your Bottom Line

Since many states do not have laws for a drug free workplace, it is integral that you implement the right policy for your business. Having the right drug testing policies in place can save your company time and money in court over employment disputes. Avoid that risk! Consider some of our tips for your drug testing policy as beginning steps.

To ensure you have an ironclad drug testing policy, it’s more important than ever to reach out to an HR professional for protection.

As state laws and employee protection laws continue to develop, you need the proper measures and verbiage to implement your company’s policy in a clear and easy-to-understand way.

We hope this article has been helpful with offering some insights to your drug testing policies, and what you need to know as an employer.

If you are a FrankCrum client we can provide guidance on the regulations in your state, recommended policy language or even a comprehensive drug-free workplace program.

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Sherri Fluitt
Sherri Fluitt

Sherri Fluitt, Senior Workers’ Compensation Claims Clerk has over 15 years of experience in the workers’ compensation industry. She currently oversees the drug testing program at FrankCrum as well as process and review claims and sends claim packets to new clients. In her free time, she enjoys the beautiful beaches of Florida, reading and movies.