Differences between federal and state laws confuse the issue of workplace drug testing, but help is available for employers seeking guidance.Employers committed to safety are continuing to follow best practices for maintaining a drug-free workplace, despite recent changes in employee drug testing laws.
Surveys show drug abuse in the U.S. population has expanded in recent years, and it’s not something that impacts people only on their own time. National Institute on Drug Abuse statistics show that 70% of current adult illegal drug users are employed full time.
Some employers are dropping or softening their drug testing requirements because they can’t find qualified candidates who can pass a drug test. But studies also suggest that this practice likely will result in higher workplace injury rates.
What can employers do?
One option is to adopt the Federal Drug-Free Workplace standards, which over the years have validated the benefits of employee drug testing. The Drug-Free Workplace Act, passed by Congress in 1988, is still in force. Thirty years of study have proved that drug use in the workforce has multiple negative consequences, including an increase in workplace injuries.
Recent court cases have confirmed the right of employers to maintain a drug-free workplace. This includes rulings allowing employers to fire drug users, even in states such as Colorado that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana use.
Nevertheless, society is sending mixed messages.
Some states have passed laws limiting drug testing. Recreational marijuana use was approved recently in Michigan, and marijuana laws – including medicinal marijuana measures – have changed in several other states.
Differences between federal and state laws also confuse the issue; some think these differences will limit employer drug testing.
In 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a rule to limit post-accident drug tests to include only injuries where drug use could not have impacted the injury. Regulators were concerned that post-accident drug testing was decreasing workplace injury reporting.
HELP FOR EMPLOYERS
Employers seeking information and guidance have help available to them. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration workplace toolkit provides a valuable resource to employers.
Limiting drug and alcohol abuse within your workforce is still considered a best practice in preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. An increase in injuries can impact your workers’ compensation experience modification rate, thus increasing the premium you pay for workers’ compensation insurance.
A Drug-Free Workplace program for your employees could be considered a positive step from a workers’ compensation standpoint. Your human resource consultant and your attorney can help you establish policies that protect your business and your workers.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Neither The Cincinnati Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer legal advice. Consult with your attorney about your specific situation. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.