Excerpted from SHRM article
American workers are testing positive for drug use at the highest rate since 2004, according to the annual Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index. This makes it critical for employers to review—and possibly update—their substance abuse policies and drug-testing practices.
The Quest study revealed positive urine drug screens for 4.2 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2016, up from 4.0 percent in 2015. The rate has not reached this level since hitting 4.5 percent in 2004.
“This year’s findings are remarkable because they show increased rates of drug positivity for the most common illicit drugs across virtually all drug test specimen types and in all testing populations,” said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director of science and technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions, in a press statement.
“Our analysis suggests that employers committed to creating a safe, drug-free work environment should be alert to the potential for drug use among their workforce,” he added.
Employers should remind workers about their drug-testing and substance abuse policies, said Jennifer Betts, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Pittsburgh.
“The more transparency, the better,” she said. “If the reason for the policy is deterrence, remember that you can’t deter without awareness. If the policy is buried in a 50- to 100-page handbook, it’s probably not effective.”
Furthermore, if an employer’s policy is from decades ago and the only time workers see it is when they’re hired and asked to sign an acknowledgment, that’s not going to be enough, said Matthew Nieman, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Washington, D.C., and general counsel for the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace.
This is particularly true for businesses with a mature workforce and few new hires, he said. “Employers may talk annually with their workforce about avoiding harassment and other forms of discrimination, and they should consider addressing this topic, too.”
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