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What Happens When an Employee Tests Positive?

... Employee Tests Positive ...

When you find out that your employee tested positive on a drug test, here are a few things that typically happen and how to deal with them.

First off you must understand that the specimen went to a laboratory for a screening test and if positive the specimen was then tested a second time, a confirmation test.  The confirmation test is called GC/MS which is the abbreviation for gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, the testing methodology used to confirm presumptive positive drug screen specimens.  This test is based on the physical and chemical properties of the specific drug or metabolite to be measured. Drug identification is achieved BOTH by chromatographic retention time and by Mass Spectrometry, which is the “drug fingerprint.” This test is very specific and robust with respect to interference. A GC/MS confirmation test is legally defensible evidence of drug use.  The confirmation testing rules out false positive claims like poppy seeds, hemp products and over the counter medications.

At this point the positive drug test result is sent from the lab to the Medical Review Officer (MRO).  This is where any potential legally prescribed medication is taken into consideration, so there are no false positives.  The MRO speaks to the employee letting them know their specimen was positive and asks if there are any medical explanations.  If the employee can document a prescription and this is verified by the MRO and this prescription is what caused the positive result at the lab – then the MRO reverses the result to negative and you, the employer, will receive the result as a negative.

Now when you get a confirmed, reviewed and verified positive result from the MRO, this is a positive result and appropriate action should be taken based upon your company's drug free workplace or drug testing policy.  You should be 100% consistent.  Many times the employee will come to you and say “Hey you know me, there is no way I am positive for drugs.  Let me prove it to you, I’ll go back for another test tomorrow.  This should never be an option; the employee should never be allowed to go back for another test.

An employer who allows a donor to go back for another test is risking significant exposure to liability.  Company drug free workplace polices should be followed consistently.  This employee has used drugs in the past and potentially will use drugs in the future.

What is in someone’s system today is not necessarily in their system tomorrow.  In addition, allowing someone to go back for a second test allows them to find opportunities to potentially cheat on the test.  

The proper procedure for a donor to challenge a positive drug test is as follows:

The employee or job applicant has an opportunity to challenge a test result after receiving written notification of a positive test result, and to have the sample retested at his or her expense at another licensed or certified laboratory chosen by the employee or job applicant.  When the employee makes a timely request for a test of the split specimen or a retest of the original specimen; the MRO will immediately provide written notice to the laboratory that tested the primary specimen, directing the laboratory to forward the split specimen or portion of the original specimen to a second SAMHSA certified laboratory. The MRO will document the date and time of the employee's request and report to the Company whether the test confirmed the presence of the drug.  The MRO will always discuss this appeal option with your employee, but it is good for you to know this so that you can repeat it when your employee says “No way I’m positive, let me prove it to you.”

Human resource professionals are not addiction counselors, scientists or medical doctors and should not be involved in interpreting drug test results.  Follow the facts and follow your drug free workplace policy to stay clear of lawsuits and exposure to liability.