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Workplace Drug Testing Is About to Change

Posted on Tuesday, June 6th, 2023

By Sharon Bottcher, Director of Policy Services at Current Consulting Group (CCG)

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.

Many employers use urine testing over saliva or hair, primarily because “it’s what companies have always done”. Other employers are inclined to mirror the Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing rules as the standard for their testing programs using the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) mandatory guidelines. SAMHSA is the driving force for DOT testing and has served as the mold for many state drug testing laws, corporate drug testing policies, and the legal argument for a defensible testing program.

SAMHSA has recently revised their testing guidelines to allow for oral fluid specimen testing, as has DOT. At the same time, state marijuana laws, in many cases, require “proof of impairment” prior to an employer taking adverse employment action. Oral fluid testing is currently the only option for detecting recent use, and thus may be a better indicator of impairment. With that, we may begin to see a major shift in the drug testing industry including non-DOT testing programs from urine to oral fluid.

What To Consider When Updating Your Program

Right now may be the perfect time to start planning how industry enhancements might improve your testing program. As you begin to assess your program to determine how and what may be necessary to improve your capabilities, such as changing specimen options, the following aspects should be considered:

Choosing the appropriate specimen type is imperative to achieve desired drug testing objectives. Each specimen type has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the reasons behind your drug testing program, a given specimen type may fit more logically than another. Research and find the right specimen fit for your testing needs, and even consider combining multiple specimens depending on situation.
Don’t forget to consider cost, ease of use, testing panel, and the length of detection time when researching test specimens.
While many states have drug and alcohol testing laws that regulate how drug testing must be conducted, other states either require compliance with or simply defer to the SAMHSA guidelines and/or the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. These “references” can be instrumental in the decision-making process.
As laws and regulations evolve, employers are shifting their interest from traditional single specimen programs to a combination of different specimens to keep up with the evolution of workplace drug testing. Choosing more than one specimen type may be necessary to achieve your program goals.

As with most testing components, state laws should be carefully reviewed to determine if the specimen of choice is allowed in the states where testing will take place. Urine testing is approved in all 50 states and has historically been the only testing method approved for federally mandated testing programs (until now). Most states allow saliva specimens as a method to test for substances of abuse, but restrictions and prohibitions need to be taken into consideration during the evaluation process.

Next Steps for Employers

After the program analysis has been completed and if program changes are made, it is important to communicate the changes to the employees. There are several ways to communicate the policy updates such as formal training, a written announcement in a letter format, or providing an updated policy to all employees. As a reminder, the leading reasons why an employer should review and update their drug testing policy include:

State law changes: Keep in mind, there may be only one type of law that needs to be reviewed for updates or there may be several laws to research and track for compliance as laws change. As an example: there are “mandatory” laws and “voluntary laws”. The “voluntary” laws are optional, and companies only need to review and track the updates or changes in laws if they have chosen to incorporate the benefits of denying or reducing unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits or if they elected to follow the laws to receive a discount on their workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, if a company has DOT employees the applicable DOT agency regulations would need to be reviewed as well.
Company expansion: Then we have situations when changes occur as companies grow and their businesses expand to a new state or city. It is important to update the policy materials to reflect the relevant requirements by the state. Also, if employees work at home the program would need to include the state law in which the employee works. Therefore, it is important to keep an up-to-date employee roster as well.
Operational or program changes: It is quite common to evaluate programs regularly to ensure they are still working, and the company program goals are still being met. Perhaps the program goals changed from the onset of the testing program. For instance, maybe your program was initially created to meet the contractual requirements of a client. Or perhaps it has been determined that the specimen type being used should be evaluated. Each specimen type has strengths and weaknesses and depending on the reasons behind your program, a different specimen type may fit more logically than what is currently in place. Even a minor change can affect compliance with state drug testing laws.

Any change should be assessed with the requirements or prohibitions of the various drug testing laws or federal regulations and the policy should be modified accordingly. To stay in compliance, reach out to Current Consulting Group at [email protected] for support and guidance with drug testing laws and policy development.

© 2010-2023 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 is required.

The post Workplace Drug Testing Is About to Change first appeared on ClearStar.

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