Employee Drug and Alcohol Testing

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Discover why employee drug and alcohol testing is increasing in the U.S. workplace and what particular factors are influencing employee drug and alcohol testing in today's society.

The Increase of Employee Drug and Alcohol Testing

In many states, employee drug and alcohol testing is increasing due to rising workers' compensation premiums; the "drug-free workplace" movement; drug and alcohol-related work inefficiency; and frequently occurring, drug and alcohol-related, on-the-job accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Drug and Alcohol Testing and Employees Privacy Rights

In many respects, employee drug and alcohol testing is a balancing act between addressing and trying to reduce drug and alcohol-related accidents, injuries, fatalities, violence, and productivity issues on the one hand and protecting employees privacy rights on the other.

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When discussing employee drug and alcohol testing one particular item that is worthy of note is that the laws and workers' compensation policies and procedures related to employee drug and alcohol testing are not uniform in all 50 of the sates.

For example, while some states prohibit employee drug and alcohol testing altogether, other states, conversely, permit drug and alcohol testing if highly specific policies and procedures are established that safeguard employee privacy.

A case in point is that the use of closed-circuit cameras is not permitted to monitor relatively intrusive blood and urine drug and alcohol testing protocols.

Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing For On-The-Job Accidents

In some states, employers have established mandatory drug and alcohol testing when a work-related accident has taken occurred.

If the testing procedure verifies that the employee was indeed under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the accident (at various levels established by employers), in some states such as Ohio, neither workers' compensation nor the employer is required by law to pay for lost wages or for medical treatment that resulted from the accident.

Stated differently, if I sustain injuries in a work-related accident that was confirmed by the testing protocol to be drug or alcohol-related and I miss eight weeks of work due to these injuries, I will not receive any wage compensation for the time I missed either by my employer or by workers' compensation.

To make matters worse, if I have undergone medical treatment for these injuries, again, neither workers' compensation nor my employers is duty-bound to pay for this treatment.

The Rationale For Employee Drug and Alcohol Testing

Having said this, it is important to ask the following question: why are many employers establishing drug-free work environments and implementing workplace drug and alcohol testing?

The following represents some of the main reasons for employee drug and alcohol testing established by many employers.

  • Drug and alcohol tests reduce employee turnover

  • Drug and alcohol tests reduce employee violence

  • Drug and alcohol tests increase worker productivity and efficiency

  • Drug and alcohol tests reduce employer spending due to the fact that workers' compensation offers reduced premiums if employers develop and implement random drug and alcohol testing

  • Drug and alcohol tests create a safer work environment

  • Drug and alcohol tests reduce employee sexual harassment

  • Drug and alcohol tests reduce employee theft

  • Drug and alcohol tests reduce on-the-job drug and alcohol-related accidents

  • Drug and alcohol tests substantially upgrade the workforce by eliminating employees who test positive for drugs and/ore alcohol and refuse to get drug and/or alcohol treatment and by weeding out prospective employees through mandatory pre-hire drug and alcohol testing

Conclusion: Employee Drug and Alcohol Testing

In many states, employee drug and alcohol testing is increasing due to drug and alcohol-related work inefficiency; costly, debilitating, and at times, fatal drug and alcohol-related, on-the-job injuries and accidents; and escalating workers compensation premiums.

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A number of drug and alcohol testing statistics reinforce the reasons for more alcohol testing by employers in the U.S. workplace.

In addition, mandatory testing for work-related accidents has resulted in instances where employees did not receive work reparation or reimbursement for medical treatment by their employers or by workers' compensation when they were tested and found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol (at levels established by the employer) at the time of a work-related accident.

Based on the numerous drug and alcohol-related problems that can and do arise in the workplace, employee drug and alcohol testing is likely to continue and probably will increase in the near future.

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