The Importance of a Drug-Free Workplace Policy

A drug free workplace policy saves money for employers.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.  Content provided by The Current Consulting Group, LLC – Bill Current and Sharon Bottcher

A drug testing policy is a blueprint for how a company plans to achieve its drug-free workplace objectives. Just as businesses change over time, drug and alcohol testing policies should continually evolve to reflect changing state laws and federal regulations and a company’s new or changing objectives.

Unfortunately, not enough companies try to keep their policies current. Here are some indications that your drug testing policy needs to be reviewed:

Program objectives have fallen by the wayside

Understanding why you implemented a drug-testing program in the first place is essential to establishing and/or updating your program objectives.

Common objectives include:

  • Meeting federal requirements such as those from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT),
  • Compliance with a client’s contractual requirements,
  • Qualifying for the benefits of a voluntary state drug testing law,
  • Improving employee morale and enhancing corporate image, and
  • Ensuring new hires are a good fit.

Remember, why you test will help you determine how you test.

Medical marijuana has not been discussed

Generally, employers are not required to permit workplace drug use or tolerate employees working while under the influence. However, medical and recreational marijuana laws may impact generally established practices depending on your state(s) of business.

Some states have laws prohibiting employers from employment discrimination based solely on medical marijuana cardholder status. Still other states include protections for employers in terms of marijuana use and the workplace. Further, some states may prohibit employers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients that test positive for marijuana unless the individuals exhibit behaviors of being under the influence while at work.

Marijuana laws are constantly changing, and it is imperative to know and follow the requirements outlined in all applicable states and ensure that your substance abuse testing policy is updated to include clear and concise language.

Changes to law or industry standards have not been monitored

Standards help set the rules and establish workplace frameworks, making it easier to successfully innovate. Industry standards can help you to identify and minimize your risks.

Employers should be aware of the different types of state laws and/or federal regulations that apply to their workplace and how they impact drug testing programs. The better you understand these requirements the greater benefit you’ll realize from having a successful and compliant program. For example, some states have mandatory drug testing laws while others have voluntary laws that offer incentives to participating companies such as workers’ compensation premium discounts. A company’s policy must reflect that types of laws in each state in which they conduct business.

 You are not open to new specimen types

Drug testing technology has come a long way in the past 30 years. Though lab-based urine testing remains the most common testing method, oral fluid and hair testing have proven to be scientifically sound and legally defensible. When evaluating these specimen options, it is not a question of which specimen is “better,” but rather which specimen or combination of specimens helps achieve your objectives.

Consider these key attributes for each specimen:

  • Window of detection
  • Positivity rates
  • Collection procedures
  • State laws and/or city ordinances
  • Federal regulations
  • Drug test cheating

Your policy should contain detailed information about specimen types that are collected from job applicants and employees, specimen collection circumstances (e.g., urine for pre-employment and oral fluid for reasonable suspicion), how collections will take place, and results reporting.

Your drug test panel has not been re-assessed to determine if it is appropriate

The bottom line is a company should test for the drugs people abuse and your drug testing policy should state which drugs you test for, including those drugs that are most commonly abused. For instance, the recent opioid epidemic caught some employers off guard and their policies did not reflect this dangerous drug use trend.

Additionally, some states specifically outline which substances can be included in a testing panel. Determining what drug test panel is right for your program has a direct impact on program success.


There is no specific update schedule that a company must follow but best practice is to review your program and policy annually (at a minimum) for relevancy and accuracy. Over time laws, company goals, objectives, and operational needs change, necessitating a review and update to your company’s policy.

© 2010-2020 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder are required.

 Read More about drug free workplace policies from National Drug Screening, Inc

policy drug free workplace
More Posts