Random Drug Testing

Random drug testing is the topic of this blog article and we will discuss several different aspects of random drug testing.  These topics will include random drug testing, random alcohol testing, DOT drug testing programs, Non-DOT programs, probation drug testing, school random drug testing and more.  Random drug testing can include alcohol testing and can be performed on a group of workers or on individuals.

In general,  If you have a job and the company does random drug testing, you might think twice about using illicit drugs for example at a party on the weekends.  Random drug testing should always be a surprise and unannounced.  Once the individual is notified of the random drug test requirement, they should be proceeding to the drug testing collection site immediately.  In some cases, a company might call out a mobile drug test collector to perform the random drug and alcohol testing for a group of individuals.  This is efficient, cost saving and time saving. Again, the testing should be unannounced and a surprise.

DOT Random Drug Testing

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) requires random drug & alcohol testing for safety sensitive covered employees.  For 2020 the required annual random testing rates are as follows:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA] – 50% drugs, 10% Alcohol
  • Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] – 25% drugs, 10% Alcohol
  • Federal Transit Administration [FTA] – 50% drugs, 10% Alcohol
  • Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration [PHMSA] – 50% drugs, no random Alcohol Testing
  • United States Coast Guard [USCG] – 50% drugs, no random Alcohol Testing. (USCG is with the Dept. of Homeland Security but follows DOT random testing rules)
  • Federal Railroad Administration [FRA]
    • Covered Service Employees: 25% drugs, 10% Alcohol
    • Maintenance of Way Employees: 50% drugs, 25% Alcohol

DOT random testing should be spread out evenly over the calendar year, typically monthly or quarterly.  The testing is required by Federal law and not affected by state laws.

Non-DOT Random Drug Testing

For Non-DOT companies, those not regulated by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT); random testing is also important to again provide deterrent to illicit drug use.  If conducting Non-DOT random always include this in the company drug free workplace policy.  For these non-regulated companies state laws do apply and it is important to check state laws when implementing a non-regulated random testing program.

Typically, random testing is always allowed for safety-sensitive employees. The following states definitely have restrictions:

Alaska – Case law may limit random testing to safety-sensitive employees.
California – Non regulated random testing restricted to safety sensitive workers, employers should clearly define these positions in the company drug free workplace policy.
Connecticut – Random testing only allowed for State designated safety-sensitive occupations or employee voluntarily enrolled in EAP.
Maine – There are restrictions, a State approved policy must be in place which permits random testing.
Massachusetts – State law limits random testing to safety sensitive or security sensitive position
Minnesota – State law limits random testing to safety sensitive positions.
New Jersey – Random testing allowed for safety sensitive employees when a legitimate business necessity exists.
West Virginia – required for mining employees and otherwise restricted to when safety is an issue.
Rhode Island – Random testing restricted to safety-sensitive employees only and only in certain Industries.
Vermont – Prohibits random drug testing of employees.  Random or company-wide tests. An employer shall not request, require, or conduct random or company-wide drug tests except when such testing is required by federal law or regulation.

The cities of San Francisco, CA and Boulder, CO prohibit random testing.

The above restrictions do not affect required DOT drug and alcohol testing.

Individuals and Random Drug Testing

For various reasons we see individuals needing random drug testing programs.  These usually required a third-party administrator (TPA) to implement for the individual a random testing program including selections and notification.  These situations usually occur in the following situations:

  • Court ordered random drug testing
  • Child custody cases
  • Child Protective Services (CPS) agency cases
  • Probation required random drug testing
  • Professional license violations requiring random drug testing such as
    • Medical licensing
    • Airline pilots
    • Coast Guard credentialed individuals and licensed captains

For the above types of drug testing the TPA should be calling the individual when the testing is required for an immediate visit to the drug testing collection site.

Many schools across the United States require random drug testing of students involved in extracurricular activities.  In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court granted affirmation to the permissibility of random student drug testing for students engaged in competitive extracurricular activities, which includes not just athletics, but glee club, cheerleading and a host of other school-sponsored pursuits.  The student drug-testing coalition provides an excellent overview and resource guide on student drug testing programs.

More on Random Drug & Alcohol Testing

As mentioned previously random drug and alcohol testing can be a deterrent to illicit drug use but important that it always be unannounced and a surprise.  Upon notification of selection, the individual should be immediately tested at a drug testing collection site or arrival of a mobile drug testing collector.

The selection method for random drug testing should be scientific, the TPA typically has a computer software system that accomplishes this. A scientifically valid method should be used to select individuals or employees for testing, which may include use of a random-number table, a computer-based random number generator that’s traceable to a specific employee.  Putting everyone’s name in a hat and drawing one out is not an acceptable method.  Random testing is just that, random; each person in the random pool has an equal chance of being selected in each random selection period.  In the case of individuals required to have random drug testing, the random aspect is typically the day the individual should go for drug and/or alcohol testing.