Why Should Employers Do Pre-Employment Drug Screening?


The question of drug tests at work has been a debatable argument for the longest time. While the Federal Law continues to amend their laws to allow the basic right to the American workers, their motive to have a drug-free workplace remains far from achievable. The argument is largely divided into two categories now, one that professes the principles of Drug-free Workplace Act(1988) while the other still protests to uphold the basic Civil Rights as American citizens. There is obviously a limit set for the employers to the extent to which they can investigate and verify as a part of their background verification process, keeping in mind the acts like The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, The National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) of 1935 etc, breaching this could lead to lawsuits being filed against the employer or the hiring company.

It is not therefore a black and white situation where on one hand the employers need to ensure a safe space for their workers and employees, on the other hand, the Civilian’s right to access to drugs within permissible limit and for “medical usage”, cannot be curtailed. The term “medical usage” while consumption of Marijuana, especially in the provinces of New Jersey, Nevada and Michigan, the recreational use of it still remains a question in several states of the U.S. including that of the major states of Florida, Louisiana, Iowa, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, et al.

The repercussions to random drug tests can be severe on the employers if they fail to justify their intention or in the process of conducting the test, any employee feels targeted on the basis of ethnicity, creed, race, sex, religion or culture. The dependency on drugs or alcohol, if noticed by the employer, can be handled with extreme sensitivity to avoid offending an individual. The process must begin with the identification of the problem, followed by counselling to ensure that the employee is willing to undergo help and treatment that is required to detox him from the addiction.

The question of acceptance of marijuana for medical use and not accepting the same for recreational use is debatable since the threshold would vary from each individual, leading to the problem of measurement and identification of quantity. This is an ongoing discussion which the law-makers are trying to bridge in order to suit both the employers and the employees.

Some of the major setbacks which the companies can face as a result of having drug-abusive employees are:

  • Deteriorating performance at work

  • Diminishing Productivity among the employees

  • Habitual absenteeism

  • Retardation and delay

  • High-cost of employee turnover

  • Increased medical bills of the employees

  • Workplace violence and potential threat to the organization

With the changing time and rules of the game, it has become dicey for the employers as they stand on the edge to mitigate the problem of individuals versus the team. Since background verification checks are an important and crucial parameter before hiring, how far off-duty habits must be taken into account is also a question to ponder on. The reason why off-duty use of the substance, legal or illegal, is taken into consideration is because it is bound to have a direct impact on the behaviour and productivity of the employee, and that can in the long run result in some form of disability or retardation. The companies therefore must ensure the inclination of their potential employees before taking them on board. The challenge, however, in the U.S., is because of the illegal nature of certain substances in some of the states that lead to confusion as a generic law has not been passed that decriminalizes the same across the country.

Some of the parameters to conduct a Drug test can be through the following:

  • Urine test

  • Blood test

  • Saliva test

  • Hair Follicle Drug test

While these tests are usually taken by employees before their employment, the hiring company must ensure their consent to taking such tests prior to the date along with written consent for future reference. If someone tests positive, one must ensure proper diagnosis through counselling, lifestyle wellness practises, followed by medical assistance and rehabilitation.

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cFIRST Think Tank
cFIRST Think Tank is the team that researches and produces content for cFirst. This team comprises of seasoned content and digital design professionals and background screening industry veterans. Together we produce insightful blogs, infographics and reports meant for HR and background screening professionals.