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Rights And Responsibilities: Drug Testing In The Workplace



In 2012, the rate of positive drug tests in the US hit a 30-year low at just under 5%. Though legalization and decriminalization of marijuana push forward, almost 90% of employers will drug test their team at some point during an employee’s tenure and consider drug testing just as important as ever. But in a world where more states and countries are legalizing cannabis, what will drug testing look like in the future?

Why Do Employers Drug Test, Anyway?

Business leaders who develop drug-free workplaces know the value of safety and productivity. Employees who test positive for illegal drug use show much higher levels of absences than colleagues at 59% higher. By drug testing, employers can reduce these levels of absenteeism, reduce turnover, and reduce their liability for workplace accidents. Health and safety are often priority number one, and in drug-free workplaces, workers are less likely to be injured on the job due to an impaired coworker’s mistakes. This is followed by low insurance costs, as frequent insurance claims for drug-related health complications could increase everyone’s premiums.

  • 86% of employers are concerned about marijuana in the workplace
  • 83% of employers think marijuana use leads to poor quality new hires
  • 86% of employers think legalization will increase their costs
  • 1 in 20 companies are considering removing marijuana testing from pre-employment screening by next year

There Are Protections In Place Against Genetic Testing And Other Abuses

Drug testing has its benefits, but unfortunately, this practice has been abused in the past in some rather surprising ways. As recently as 2004, 1 in 6 companies admitted to using those pre-employment screening samples to test for genetic risk factors in order to determine potential insurance risk, which is now illegal thanks to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). What’s more, employers are forbidden from requiring genetic testing for any reason as a condition of employment.

On a personal level, attitudes toward drug testing are not always optimistic, as many workers may feel reluctant to surrender their bodily fluid under the demands of management. Possibly considering the request a sign that management doesn’t trust them or is violating their privacy, transparent and carefully crafted drug testing and privacy policies can help bridge the gap between the necessities of employers and the peace of mind of employees. Employers can’t drug test to single an employee out or use the threat of drug testing to intimidate employees. Drug testing has to be implemented fairly, either for every employee or completely at random unless there are extenuating circumstances like a workplace incident.

Both Employers And Employees Have Rights

Knowing your rights as an employee when it comes to workplace drug testing is important, but knowing the limitations of such testing as an employer is even more important, especially if you want to avoid lawsuits. Take a look at this infographic for more detail on the current state of drug testing in the workplace, how smart business leaders balance trust and safety among employees, and why it’s still important to have drug-testing policies that are applied fairly in the workplace.

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.