Having an effective drug testing program helps to create a safer and more productive workplace. Unfortunately, many employers make crucial mistakes when implementing a drug testing program. These mistakes can lead to an unsafe and unproductive workplace, and sometimes even legal trouble. Are you guilty of any of the following?

We don’t drug test at all.

One-fifth of workers and managers across a wide range of industries reports that a coworkers on or off the job drinking jeopardized their own productivity and safety. Drug use puts not only the user themselves but also the other employees, clients, and even their own family members at risk.

There are 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs, and 70% of them are employed.     Drug and alcohol use in the workplace can lead to a loss of production, and an increase in injuries, fatal accidents and absenteeism. 

Our testing program has no clearly defined rules.

Effective drug testing programs have clearly defined rules and are made clear to all employees. If yours isn’t, it’s likely less effective and therefore allowing for drug use in your workplace. There’s no room in a good drug policy for lenience or forgiveness because of personal relationships, as these slip ups can wreak havoc on safety and productivity in your workplace.

We’re running the wrong tests.

Drug testing isn’t cheap, so it’s important that your company get the most bang for its buck. It’s expensive (and impractical) to test every employee for everything, so it’s important to be wary and mindful of what drugs are common in your area. Some of the most common drugs to test for include marijuana, MDMA (Ecstasy) and methamphetamine. 

The most effective test is the urine test. Most court systems accept it, it allows you to test for many drugs, and the results come back quickly.

We’re not documenting incidents appropriately.

In certain states, like California for example, you must have reasonable suspicion in order to have an employee drug tested. Reasonable Suspicion means suspicion based on concrete and observable facts, not just hearsay from the office. Be sure to document any incidents that concern you to decrease the likelihood of legal claims resulting from a drug test request.

We only do pre-employment testing.

Many employers conduct pre-employment drug screening, and that’s great. But if your company doesn’t conduct random testing of current employees, you may be at risk for drug use in the workplace. It’s all too easy for an employee to abstain from drug use in order to pass a pre-employment test only to continue using after completion of the hiring process. 

There are many reasons to test employees, including:

  • Pre-employment (after the position has been offered)
  • Random testing
  • Post-accident
  • When an employee has returned from a work hiatus
  • As a follow-up to test taken previously

Consider these testing policies in order to more efficiently prevent workplace issues caused by drug and alcohol use.

There’s a lack of legal compliance in our program.

Managing a drug testing program is no small task. Even if you’re not trying, noncompliance can happen by mistake. Drug testing laws very by state, federal contract status, industry, the list goes on. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends that employers consult with legal advisors when designing their testing programs to ensure that they comply with applicable state or local laws and are able to withstand legal challenges. 

Our random selection process could use some work.

Random drug testing is a great way to detect drug abuse in the workplace, but if your program isn’t run properly your workplace could be at risk.

A problem that many employers run into is giving too much notice to individuals who have been randomly selected. If an employee is given advanced notice of a random drug test, they may take measures to avoid detection. Limit the amount of time between when individuals are notified of the test and the time they take it.

And while we’re on the subject of random selections….be careful to ensure that your random selection process is truly random. It’s not uncommon for the same employees to be randomly selected for testing more than once, that’s just how probability works. For example, if  you were to do 2 random draws of 20% of the people from a 100-person consortium, you should actually expect the draws to have 100 x 1/25 = 4 people in common out of the 20 selected. Even so, it’s easy for an employee to feel that they’re being singled out and discriminated against, so be sure to develop a truly random selection process.

Our policy doesn’t address medical marijuana.

Changes to marijuana legislation are more and more frequent, and although federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, many states allow some form of medical marijuana. Employers are in a tough position when it comes to medical marijuana in the workplace. You may choose a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace policy, one that does not allow for medical marijuana usage. If you face no federal, industry, or state regulations, you might allow medical marijuana usage for certain positions. 

Either way, it is important to have a clear and specific policy to address medical marijuana.


“4 Common Flaws in Employment Drug Testing Programs.” Employment Background Check Blog HireRight. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.

“6 Biggest Mistakes Employers Make (With Drug Testing).” RSS2. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.