Most Common Reasons for Drug Tests
Employer-Based Drug Testing
If you are applying for a good job, you probably will be tested as a condition of your employment. Many of you – already employed with the same job for many years – could suddenly be subject to a random or post-accident drug and alcohol test.
Be advised, however, that many times these “random” tests are far from and anything but random. A cautionary tale can be gleaned from the story of Russ Korne, a former U-Haul worker. Stories such as these abound and can be found by simply speaking with friends. Employers typically test workers when there is an elevated likelihood of a positive result, such as right after a return from vacation or even your own bachelor party. Office politics often play a role in these “random” screenings as well.
Most employers use drug tests in the hopes of reducing liability and insurance costs. If you have an accident at work and injure someone or damage property while using banned substances, your employer is liable. Your employer is liable for everything you do at work within reason (Not within reason: if you go berserk and start shooting everyone in sight with no prior indication of mental instability, your employer may not be liable). Also, the Federal Government passed what is known as the “Drug-Free Workplace Act,” which states that if a business wants to win a government contract they must have a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy in place and in force prior to beginning work. Many even require an annualdrug test for any employees working on a government facility.
Below is a table derived from The American Management Association’s survey on workplace surveillance and medical testing, revealing alarmingly high rates of drug testing in the workplaces of many industries:
|Industries That Drug Test Employees|
|Business Category||Testing of New Hires||Testing of All Employees|
|Business & Professional Services||36.0%||18.4%|
|Wholesale & Retail||63.0%||36.8%|
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Random Drug Screenings
Random drug testing is used by an ever-increasing number of corporations, drug rehab centers, prisons, the military, police and fire departments, government agencies and – more recently – schools. If you were chosen for a Random Screening, perhaps you are wondering how your name was pulled from the proverbial hat. In a “perfect system,” all employee names (or ID numbers, social security numbers, etc) are entered into a random numbering computer program (or by hand using a random numbering table). The employer then sets the quantity of employees to be chosen. For example: if the employer has 1000 employees and wants to test 20% of individuals per year, the company would draw 200 names out and test them throughout the calendar year. Commonly the draw is made monthly, so the employer would select approximately 16 employees each month, test them during that month, then draw another 16 the following month. If your name or number happened to be selected, you are tested.
Unfortunately, having your name selected does not prevent you from being chosen again. If you are drawn and tested in July, for example, your name (or number) is then put back in the system, enabling your selection in August or any other subsequent month. The probability of being drawn two or three months in succession is typically remote, however possible.
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The Department of Transportation requires employees in a Safety Sensitive Position to be tested at the annual rate of 50%. That means that everyone working in a DOT-regulated job will be tested at least (on average) once every other year.
The objective of a random drug test is deterrence, as the threat of detection is much higher versus other testing methods. Critics of random testing claim that random drug testing introduces a presumption of guilt, and is a violation of privacy if the drug user is not actually intoxicated during working hours.
Opposition to this policy is so strong that California, Montanta, Iowa, Vermont and Rhode Island have all enacted protective legislation that restricts drug testing in the private workplace and gives employees some measure of protection from unfair and unreliable testing. In addition, Minnesota, Maine and Connecticut permit random drug testing only of employees in “safety sensitive” positions. While not perfect, these new laws place significant limits on employers’ otherwise unfettered authority to test and give employees the power to resist unwarranted invasions of privacy. More importantly, it represents a sizable and legitimate opposition to random drug testing.
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Safety-Sensitive Position Drug Tests:
For nearly all states, a Safety-Sensitive Position is defined as “operators of commercial motor vehicles over 26,000 lbs, gross vehicle weight inclusive of a towed unit with GVW of 10,000 lbs or:
1. Has a GVW rating of more than 26,000 lbs
2. Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver
3. Is of any size and is used to transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR, Part 172, Subpart F)
Operators, maintenance and emergency workers of pressurized or flammable pipeline are considered well within the guidelines of a Safety-Sensitive Position. Aircraft pilots, mechanics and flight crew, as well as railroad engineers and conductors are quite obviously covered under the Federal Government’s definition. Some specialized jobs within the Coast Guard and owners/operators of semi-trucks are also considered Safey-Sensitive Positions. Many of these positions seem like common sense, but as of June 2008 city bus drivers were oddly not considered to be in a Safety-Sensitive Position.
Alcohol testing can only be conducted while the employee is currently engaged in, just prior to starting or immediately after completing a Safety-Sensitive task. Controlled substances testing (drug test) can be done at any time. An employee can even be called in on his/her day off to be tested for controlled substances. In this event, driving to and taking a controlled substances or alcohol test is considered “on duty” time, and is to be paid accordingly. A driver cannot be tested if the time allowed for testing puts him/her over the allotted hours for driving.
For those of you not in a Safety-Sensitive position (bankers, cashiers, assembly line workers, laborers, food and hospitality workers, etc.), you can still be called on for random testing while at work. Most non-DOT regulated employers do not test for alcohol, but some (about 10%) do. Alcohol is a legal drug, but you cannot be under the influence of alcohol while at work. The same principle applies to prescription medications and medical marijuana. Just because it is legal for you to take a medication or substance does not mean that your employer allows you to be under the influence of it on the job.
An example of this is a truck driver (names intentionally withheld for confidentiality purposes) randomly tested after a prior on-the-job injury that was covered by Workers’ Compensation Insurance. He was prescribed Tylenol 3 with codeine for pain because he had painful broken bones. Tylenol 3 with codeine is a banned substance because it contains opiates. Once he was tested and found to be positive for opiates he was sent home until he no longer needed the particular medication. While the driver had a legal right to take the drug, he could not drive or work while taking it. The same idea applies for medical marijuana. You may have a recommendation from a doctor to smoke marijuana to relieve your pain, anxiety or nausea, but your employer cannot allow you to perform a Safety-Sensitive Position and – more importantly – can restrict you from being on the job at all while under its influence.
Pre-Employment Drug Tests
Applying for a job is plenty stressful already. When you consider the added possibility of a drug screening – especially if you are a regular or even occasional marijuana user – the entire process can be downright unbearable. While by no means universally accepted, companies who employ the pre-employment drug screening tactic pull their informationfrom sources such as Employment Screening Resources. The pre-employment drug test can take place at anytime: from the first interview to several weeks after you start work for a new company. The test can be conducted on site or you could be sent to a “collection facility.” An outside vendor may be called in to perform the test, or its possible the company may have a qualified person “in house” to conduct the test right then and there.
The best defense for a pre-employment controlled substances test is the same for an alcohol test. Try to control your use of illegal substances before applying for a job. You are the only one who controls this situation. If it is difficult for you to completely stop your use of controlled substances, Marijuana.com strongly recommends finding the most suitable product for your circumstances at PassaDrugTest.com. The drug test and cleansing experts are happy to answer any of your questions, so give them a call at 1-877-247-1354 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. PassaDrugTest.com is the only source for detoxification products that Marijuana.com endorsees.
If you apply to a company and begin work without being subjected to a pre-employment drug test, read the company literature very carefully. Ask around (discretely, or course) to your co-workers. Be very mindful of your substance intake until you know for sure whether or not the employer uses drug testing. Most employers will have employees sign a waiver acknowledging and agreeing to a drug test “on demand.” Oddly, some employers who have you sign such a waiver do not utilize drug testing at all. More importantly, most do. It is always a good idea to ask for a copy of everything you sign before starting work, including your W-4 form for taxes, I-9 form for immigration, orientation paperwork, etc. Ask for a copy, take the paperwork home and take the time to thoroughly read through it. You do not have to tell the employer why you want a copy. Most employers will see that as being diligent and thorough – not bad traits for a new employee to possess.
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Return-to-Duty and Follow-Up Drug Tests
If your results returned positive on a previous controlled-substance test (or you were found to have adulterated or substituted), you may be subject to a Follow-Up test. The DOT requires that a Return-to-Duty test be done after an individual has successfully completed a Substance Abuse Professional’s (SAP) recommendation for treatment and/or counseling for failing a previous controlled substances test. These are required to be observed tests and you must receive a verified negative result before being allowed to return to your Safety-Sensitive Position.
Follow-up tests are conducted after you have returned to your Safety-Sensitive Position. These tests are also observed. An employee working a Safety-Sensitive Position must have no less than 6 follow-up tests during the first year at an interval defined by the SAP. Follow-up tests can continue for up to 5 years after the Return-to-Duty test was completed.
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Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test
An employer, if suspecting you of being under the influence of banned substances while on the job, may require a reasonable suspicion test. Based on documented behavior, smell or activity, the employer can choose to have an employee tested while on the job. Usually these tests are conducted on the job site, during the work shift.
An example is (names intentionally withheld for confidentiality purposes) an employee who was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol while at work. The call to perform an onsite test came at the beginning of his shift – 11:00 pm. The test administrator arrived at about 11:30 pm and tested the employee using an evidential breathalyzer. The employee was found to be over 0.23 BAC, almost 3 times the legal limit for driving. The employer fired the employee, took his car keys from him and called a cab to take the employee home. The employee came back the following day ranting and raving about how he was going to sue the employer. Unfortunately for him, the bottom line is that an evidential breath test or confirmed drug test is defensible for an employer in court – provided it is administered properly. You can try to fight it, but you will probably lose, succeeding only in spending large amounts of your money and time.
The bottom line is that Reasonable Suspicion is called thusly for a reason. Do not give your employer reason to reasonably suspect that you are under the influence of any banned substance (including alcohol).
What if you arrive at work one day a late because your newborn baby absolutely detests sleeping and has an inclination towards screaming his lungs to bursting proportions? Are you afraid that something minor and guiltless like this will result in a Reasonably Suspected drug test administered on your behalf? Are you terrified that some second-hand smoke you may have absorbed weeks or months ago is going to cause you to lose your job? If this is the caseMarijuana.com recommends one of PassaDrugTest.com’s Permanent Body Cleansing Solutions. The drug test and cleansing experts are excellent at calming fears and solving problems, so give them a call at 1-877-247-1354 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. PassaDrugTest.com is the only source for detoxification products that Marijuana.comendorsees.
Annual Drug Tests
Annual tests are done strictly to comply with government or association guidelines and regulations. Some trade associations like skilled labor unions, trade consortiums or government entities require an employer to give all employees engaged in certain jobs an annual drug test. For instance, on your anniversary date with the Millwrights Union, you are required each year to have a negative drug test. In some cases you must carry a card while performing certain jobs, identifying both the anniversary date and a negative result for the test.
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Post-Accident or Near Miss Drug Tests
Having an accident at work is stressful, especially if someone is hurt as a result. All of a sudden, you are subject to drug and/or alcohol testing, not to mention scrutinizing suspicion. This is done for a couple of reasons:
1. To reduce the possibility of a similar incident occurring by eliminating illegal or banned substance use as a cause
2. To reduce the company’s liability for a medical claims incident
If you are involved in an accident, have a medical claim with a workers’ compensation insurance carrier and are found to be positive for alcohol or a controlled substance on a test, the employer may not be liable for your injury. The burden of proof then shifts to you to prove that the banned substance or alcohol use did not contribute in any way to the cause of the accident.
For example: A worker (names intentionally withheld for confidentiality purposes) was hit by a fork lift in a warehouse where he was employed as a laborer. The worker filed a medical claim for her broken leg and another for lost wages. The employer conducted a drug and alcohol test on the employee and observed a positive result for THC. Workers’ Compensation Insurance paid for the medical bills, but did not pay for the lost wages claim. The company’s experience rating was not charged with the accident. This means that the company’s insurance rates were not affected by the accident because it was assumed to be the fault of the employee. The only chance the employee had was to prove that she would have been hit by the fork lift whether she used pot or not. She then had to prove that the use of marijuana did not cause her to lose concentration on her surroundings or fail to hear the approaching fork lift. She had to prove that the marijuana in her system did not affect her reflexes, making her unable to avoid being hit by the fork lift no matter the circumstances. That is a pretty difficult thing to prove, and the outcome of the case was predictable.
FYI: An employer cannot take urine from an unconscious individual. You must be able to give consent or refuse a test as you see fit. Even if you are catheterized, a medical professional cannot take urine from you while you are unconscious or if you do not give permission. Just keep in mind that a refusal to submit to a drug test is considered a positive drug test.
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Probation or Parole Drug Tests
Nearly everyone who has been arrested and/or convicted of a drug or alcohol offense and placed on probation or parole will be regularly screened for controlled substances. Even individuals who were arrested and/or convicted of an offense completely unrelated to illegal substances may be subjected to regular drug tests while on probation or parole.
These tests are almost always observed – or at least monitored – and usually given by your parole/probation officer during your visit. Fortunately, because the visits are scheduled, you generally have a good idea when the tests will be administered. You also have the ability to control the outcome of these tests. Control your illegal substance use while on probation or parole and you will have much less stress on your shoulders.
If you are a marijuana smoker, it’s entirely possible that the substance can remain in your system for many, many weeks.