Employee drug testing programs detect drug users and serve to deter drug use in the workplace. Since employers first began drug testing employees in the 1980s, drug use among workers subject to testing has steadily declined.
Unless a company is federally regulated (e.g. by the U.S. DOT), employers have a fair amount of discretion (subject to some state and local laws), in how they conduct employee drug testing.
So why do employers drug test?
Substance abuse among workers can increase employee turnover. A 2007 SAMHSA study indicates that workers who report having three or more jobs in the previous five years are about twice as likely to be current or past year users of illegal drugs as those who have had two or fewer jobs.
Studies estimate the cost of recruiting and training replacement workers at one-third of a worker’s annual salary, with additional costs to the employer making it more like 50% of the worker’s annual salary. Workers with an Substance Use Disorder are 40% more likely to report having more than one employer in the previous year.
In jobs with high average salaries, (executives, managers, finance), each worker with an untreated substance use disorder costs an employer more than $14,000 a year.
To Identify Employees Who Have Substance Problems
Employers who drug test new hires reduce the possibility of employing people with substance abuse problems. Illicit drug users can cause harm to a business in many ways. Likewise, many employers who drug test existing employees view it as an employee health issue and offer help to those who are found with a dependence issue.
According to the National Safety Council, almost 9% of working adults in the U.S. have a substance use disorder, including 6.7% with an alcohol use disorder and 1.6% with a cannabis use disorder, dominated by workers in industries like construction. Other industries with easy access to alcohol, like entertainment and food service, also have higher rates. But where safety is a concern, employers need to be vigilant.
To Protect the Company and Business
Some state and federal laws specifically require certain employers to maintain drug-free workplaces. Transportation employees whose jobs fall under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation are required to be in drug testing programs. And some government contracts require that employers maintain a drug-free workplace. AND there are 11 states that offer a discount on worker’s compensation premiums if employers establish a compliant drug-free workplace program.
And employers who are interested in protecting themselves from safety issues, lawsuits, workers comp claims and such, will implement drug testing programs to stay ahead of potential problems related to employee drug use.
To Maintain Safety for All Employees
Employers are required to provide a safe place to work for ALL employees. Individuals who use illicit drugs are less productive and more likely to be involved in an accident than non-drug-using co-workers. They negatively affect team morale and productivity. Substance-abusing workers are more likely to injure a co-worker than themselves. Employee alcohol and drug abuse poses a higher risk of danger to the safety of everyone in the workplace.