“I’d like to send an employee in for a random drug test.”
I get calls like this frequently. It usually means they suspect an employee is using some kind of prohibited substance and they want to conduct a test.
On the surface it seems like a reasonable request. But it’s not a truly random drug test, is it? In fact, it’s not random at all.
This would be better categorized as a Reasonable Suspicion test, which is also a perfectly legitimate reason to test.
Random drug testing is, well, random. To be statistically random, names are selected from a pool at a predetermined rate. Each person in the testing pool has an equal chance to chosen.
No one can accuse the employer of favoritism or of picking on someone. If it’s truly random, it’s defensible.
- 100 employees
- Testing rate: 50%
- Quarterly selections – That means 50 random tests per year, so 12 or 13 each quarter.
At the end of each quarter, we make sure that the employee list is up to date and select the randoms using specialized software.
The employer is provided a list of selections and a deadline to get them completed.
If an employee is chosen in January, is he off the hook for the rest of the year?
Nope. Next quarter he could be selected again. That’s what makes random drug testing the most effective deterrent.
So what about someone you think may be using drugs or alcohol?
There is, indeed, a chance that person may be selected randomly, but if you have a legitimate reason to suspect someone, then you should conduct a Reasonable Suspicion Test. Of course, this means creating proper documentation and a serious conversation. We routinely walk clients through this process. And we provide reasonable suspicion training as well.
Why companies have random drug testing programs
Some do it by law. Federal contractors, the military and organizations regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation are required to. But that’s only 20% of the industry.
The main reason many companies use random drug testing is NOT to “catch” and punish employees that are using drugs. It is about safety, preventing accidents and encouraging a productive, positive work environment. The most effective way to deter employee workplace drug-use is random employee drug testing.
How effective is Random Drug Testing?
In a word: Very.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research: “