By Sharon Bottcher, Director of Policy Services at Current Consulting Group (CCG)
This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.
A drug testing policy has many benefits, and it should be used to its full potential. There are many functions to a policy and just having a policy may not be enough. It is fundamentally important to understand why the company invested in the development of drug-free workplace policy.
The company had a situation that required several employees to be tested for drugs and/or alcohol because of a serious accident. Some of the employees came forward to say that they are using marijuana for medical purposes and refused to be tested. Another employee was working on company premises, but from a different out-of-state location. The good news is the company has a written policy in place that includes a dedicated section on testing for marijuana. However, what does the policy say about medical marijuana? Do the rules vary by state? Which laws apply? How do you proceed?
What Is the Employer to Do?
The employees are nervous about the outcome of their results and associated consequences. The program manager is apprehensive about how to proceed and fearful of potential legal liability for not following the proper procedures. This situation is not that uncommon and companies without a policy or without an updated policy cause employees and managers to experience unnecessary concern and anxiety.
Take a deep breath and relax! A comprehensive policy will have you covered. From the point of view of the program manager, a well-written, comprehensive policy provides useful and necessary assistance with the proper guidelines to follow for most situations. For companies with locations in multiple states, a customized policy that includes specific state information is imperative to prevent inconsistent and out of compliant decision making. An employee’s perspective of a policy provides clear and precise direction of the program objectives and expectations on behaviors and policy violations.
What Are the Policy Benefits?
A comprehensive policy accomplishes several critical objectives which may vary from company to company, and the outcome of each objective will be different based on the goals the company wants to achieve with its drug testing program. Each company determines its own tolerance for risk, which should be reflected in the policy regarding who to test, when to test, how to test and which drugs to include in a drug test panel (e.g., marijuana).
Consider this scenario: all hiring managers might think they’re being fair in hiring and promotions—but some might be more diligent about fairness than others. If a manager is sloppy about following company policies and procedures for hiring, he or she is likely acting outside the company’s risk tolerance, and exposing the company to more compliance risk. A well-defined policy will help employees and managers to keep their actions within those tolerance parameters.
Some important factors and benefits of a custom drug testing policy include:
- Creating confidence and reducing biased decision making.
- Ensuring efficient and consistent decision making.
- Increasing accountability for companies and employees.
- Preventing legal problems, including compliance issues, which limits the company’s liability.
- Providing clear direction regarding employees’ responsibilities and expectations.
- Outlining actions for program violations.
Is a Policy Necessary?
A policy is absolutely critical. Most businesses, regardless of size, have some type of drug testing policy as part of their drug-free workplace program. The larger the company, the more important policies tend to be. However, even small companies can benefit by establishing well-defined policy requirements.
Depending on applicable state laws, a written drug testing policy may actually be required, and its content may be outlined by the state. In addition, there are regulations that require policies for certain industries. And of course, a very specific type of policy is required under federal law for employers mandated to follow the drug and alcohol testing rules of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
Regardless, all companies benefit from having a sound policy.
Employers must have a complete understanding of the laws governing drug testing in each state in which they do business as well as any local ordinances or federal regulations. Also, there may be case law decisions that may provide guidance on how and under what circumstances a company can conduct drug testing. A seasoned service provider or legal counsel can help with writing a policy compliant with all applicable testing rules.
If you want to avoid any negative impacts and reap the benefits discussed herein, then employers are well advised to create written policies, communicate them to all employees (and applicants where required by law), and train supervisors and managers regarding their responsibilities in administering the policy effectively and efficiently.
Every year, hundreds of bills are introduced, and many new laws are enacted at the state level that can directly affect workplace drug testing policies. Therefore, companies that already have an existing policy in place should review and revise their policies at least annually, if not more often.
If you are interested in creating a policy or updating an existing policy, we can find the right solution for you. Contact the Current Consulting Group, LLC at 954-944-0400 or [email protected] to find out more.
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