Should you be drug testing your employees?

It's a sensitive issue but drug testing can be a key way to keep your business and employees safe. Here are some best practices you need to know.

It’s a sensitive issue but drug testing can be a key way to keep your business and employees safe. Here are some best practices you need to know.

By Tim Dimoff

Considering the increase in the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana should you be drug testing your employees? The simple answer is yes. Workplace drug testing is an important step in preventing injuries and reducing employer liabilities. It is also an important tool for protecting your brand, your employees and in establishing a drug-free workplace. Workplace abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is expensive, costing more than $700 billion a year in losses related to crime, low morale, lost productivity, accidents, and increased health care needs.

A CNBC report stated that results of a survey conducted by showed that 9.7% of Americans smoke marijuana before going to work. 534 workers surveyed admitted to pre-job smoking. While there is no law that states that employers must drug test their employees unless it is required by state or Federal regulations for certain jobs, it is in your best interest as an employer to consider implementing a workplace drug testing policy.

>> RELATED: Navigating small business challenges

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) recommends several specific steps for small businesses that plan (or are legally required) to test their employees. They suggest that instead of singling out employees for testing under suspicion of drug or alcohol use, which could subject you, as an employer to a lawsuit for discrimination, all employees should be tested. Additionally, all businesses who receive at least $100,000 in federal contract funding must test their workers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires any employer with at least 15 employees to make a conditional offer of employment before testing. And lastly, but very important, is that it’s illegal to obtain a sample from a worker without consent.

Before you do any legal drug testing, there are some best practices you need to know. Here is some basic information that can help to guide you: 

  • Have a clearly written policy that includes reasonable-suspicion drug screening. Distribute it to employees so they understand that they’re subject to testing.
  • Train all supervisors on a recurring basis to recognize the signs of intoxication, to document those signs and to properly develop reasonable suspicion.
  • Decide which types of testing you intend to do—pre-employment, pre-duty, periodic, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty, follow-up, etc.—which drugs you will test for, and by which method(s).

>> RELATED: How to know when it’s time to part ways with a customer

  • Only test employees based on current observations—immediately before, during or immediately after an employee works. Do not do it based on past incidents or observations. Test as soon as possible after relieving an employee from duty due to suspicion of intoxication or drug use. Either implement on-site drug testing or immediately contact an off-site provider to make arrangements.
  • Use simple, clear language in describing the symptoms observed. My firm can help you with that.
  • Consider a second opinion when a supervisor suspects an employee of drug or alcohol use. This protects the supervisor, your company and the rights of the employee.
  • If using an off-site provider, do not permit the employee to drive himself anywhere unless they first test negative. 
  • Be sure to document the chain of custody when a sample is taken from an employee.
  • Save a portion of each sample for “confirmation testing” after the initial test.

>> RELATED: Understanding “quiet quitting” and what to do about it

  • After the first test, you may wish to use a more sophisticated method of testing to ensure accuracy.
  • Have a Medical Review Officer (MRO) or medical professional in place to address all positive results. This allows the employee to offer a legitimate medical reason for the result.
  • Maintain confidentiality.
  • Refer employees who test positive to drug and alcohol treatment services.

If you follow these suggestions, you will be protecting your company and your employees. Next month I’ll be discussing how employees find ways to elude or fake drug tests. If you have any concerns or questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me at SACS Consulting.

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at


On Key

Related Posts

A Low-Cost, Easy Way to Retain Employees: Have Fun!

Social connection is essential to the human experience – we need it in our professional lives as much as we need it in our personal lives. Here are some tips for bringing fun into the workplace to create an enjoyable environment and improve employee retention.

public speaking: overcoming the fear factor

We all experience Presentation Anxiety from time to time. But instead of fleeing the scene, it’s better to find a way to handle and overcome your fear of public speaking. Check out these five tips to managing Presentation Anxiety.

Small Businesses can compete with large companies

You might think that a smaller business with a smaller staff and budget can’t keep up with large companies. However, there are several ways that a small business like yours can reach, appeal to, satisfy, and keep consumers coming back for more.