A well-thought-out policy is the key to a successful drug-testing program. A company should have a clear understanding of why it wants to start a testing program and what it expects to accomplish.
Because drug abuse can affect many different departments within the company, all existing company and departmental policies should be reviewed before formulating a policy. The drug-abuse policy must be consistent with other company policies, as well as existing union and other employee contracts.
A policy development committee should be drawn from the departments most directly affected. These might include the medical, human resources (personnel and benefits), safety, and security departments. Companies that have an employee counseling program should also include a program representative on the committee. The union should be represented if the policy will be part of union contract negotiations. In addition, legal counsel should be closely involved throughout the policy development process.
Some companies’ policies take up only a single page, while others are quite detailed. At minimum, a drug-abuse policy should contain the following elements:
- A position statement that reflects the company’s views on drug abuse; that it is a risk to security; a liability to productivity; or a medical problem
- A statement of need, which usually either documents incidents that have already occurred within the company or expresses the company’s desire to prevent such incidents
- A list of the company’s responsibilities to its employees, and the departments that will carry out these responsibilities
- A list of employees’ responsibilities or conditions of employment
- The procedures the company will implement to achieve the goals of the policy
- The consequences of violating the policy either by testing positive for drugs, or by refusing to submit a sample
Deciding Who Will Be Tested and When
The policy should specify who will be tested and when testing will take place. If all employees or applicants will not be tested, the policy must present a solid, nondiscriminatory reason for selecting those individuals who are tested. Management definitely should not be exempted from testing, both for nondiscriminatory and for security reasons.
Testing is usually done at one or more of the following times:
- As part of an employee’s regularly scheduled physical
- Whenever reasonable suspicion exists that the employee is under the influence of drugs
- Following an accident
- On a random, neutral basis, without notice of when testing will occur
- As part of a program for monitoring employees undergoing rehabilitation for drug-abuse problems
Pre-employment testing is often the simplest choice for companies to implement because no union or employee bargaining is necessary to test prospective employees; only current employees are governed by existing contracts or employee agreements.
Communicating the Drug-Testing Policy
An employee education program should not only help employees understand and accept the policy, but also increase employee awareness of the effects of substance abuse in the workplace.
Because the courts often use the company policy as an implied contract between employer and employee, companies must adhere strictly to the terms of the policy, and employees must understand these terms. A well-publicized company policy can help avoid complications in legal disputes. If employees can show they were not fully informed of a drug-abuse policy, courts and arbitrators may overturn disciplinary actions.
Employees must also be reminded of policy requirements when they are asked to produce a specimen. The requirements can be discussed at the time an employee gives written consent (required to assure due process) to both the testing and to the release of test results to company management.
To effectively communicate and implement the drug-abuse policy, managers and supervisors should be trained in the following:
- The rationale for having the policy
- How the policy was developed
- Basic features of the policy
- Procedures for implementing the policy
- Basic drug-abuse terms and symptoms of drug use
- Basic legal concerns