Substance abuse — be it alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications — poses huge risks for all businesses. As a result, employers pay billions of dollars each year in healthcare costs, lost productivity, and lawsuits.
If you think your company doesn’t need to drug test, remember that the majority of drug abusers are employed. A strong drug testing program will weed out problems before they cause any harm.
A Non-DOT drug test is a drug test given to a worker in an industry that’s not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
There are two worlds when it comes to drug testing. And the difference is how testing is regulated.
The first applies to industries regulated by the DOT.
If you’re a pilot, a truck driver, or a train conductor, the DOT governs your drug testing. You would fall in the “regulated” category. Everyone else, in all other industries, may still have drug tests done, but they are considered non-DOT. Testing done on employees in a non-regulated industry is referred to as Non-DOT drug testing.
Non-DOT drug tests are dictated by each individual employer. The employer decides how to manage and run their drug testing program based on their needs. Established companies have this defined in their drug testing policy. The timing and frequency are the employers’ choice, as is the type of testing. They could choose to test urine, oral fluid, hair, or a combination of the three after taking into account applicable legal regulations and considerations.
There are few federal laws around Non-DOT drug testing, however, state and local laws are more common. Workers’ comp and unemployment laws also have an effect on drug testing programs. Although most of these rules are optional, companies that follow them earn perks. For example, employers may earn discounts on workers’ comp premiums by adhering to them.
A Non-DOT drug test consists of either a 5-drug panel or a 10-drug panel. A DOT drug test looks for five drugs, and is referred to as a 5-panel screen:
A Non-DOT drug test can be the same 5-panel screen, or it can be expanded into a 10-panel screen by testing for five additional drugs:
Non-DOT employers can also choose to test for hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, prescription painkillers, and ecstasy.
While the actual test is the same, different drug tests are defined by when the test takes place.
Types of Non-DOT drug tests include:
Pre-Employment Tests: Many companies now require all new hires to pass a drug test before starting work. It gives you the chance to keep habitual users out of your workforce. If an applicant is unable to stop using long enough to pass a test, you do not want them on your payroll.
Random Testing: These tests may be done monthly, quarterly, or even annually, depending on the company’s needs. Names are generated randomly by a computer program. This type of testing deters employee drug use since they don’t know when they’ll be tested.
Post-Accident Tests: These tests are usually done after accidents that cause a fatality or injury, or could lead to a workers’ compensation claim. It is important for the employer to know if the person responsible for the accident was under the influence. It is essential to spell out the timing for these tests in your drug testing policy so the tests can be done before any drugs can clear the employee’s system. Failing to have a solid protocol could cause you to miss a positive test result.
Reasonable Suspicion Testing: If you’re going to utilize this type of test, you need to have supervisors who are trained to spot suspicious behaviors. They’re only conducted if a company official can show reason to believe an employee might be under the influence.
Return-to-Duty Tests: If you allow an employee to return to work after having a positive drug test result, it’s a good idea to test them once more to make sure they’re no longer using. This test might also be appropriate when an employee returns to work after an accident to be sure they aren’t impaired by prescription painkillers.
Follow-Up Tests: If an employee is allowed to return to work after passing a Return to Duty drug test, you might consider follow-up testing over the next year to be sure he or she doesn’t start using again. This requires several random screens for the employee.
DOT and Non-DOT drug tests both require chain-of-custody forms (CCF). These forms are used to keep track of a specimen from the moment of collection until the final results are reported. CCFs make sure all specimens are handled properly.
All of our drug tests are processed in SAMHSA-certified labs and results are reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to ensure accuracy. If a specimen is flagged because of a prescription drug, the MRO will contact the donor to see if they have a legal prescription.
If the drug is legally prescribed, the test will be marked “negative” and there will be no repercussions for the employee. If, however, the employee can’t prove they are using the drug legally, the result will be considered a “positive” test. It will be up to the employer to follow their disciplinary policy.
The first step for any drug testing program is to have a written policy. This policy spells out exactly who will be subject to the drug testing, when the tests will be performed, what methods of testing will be used, and what happens if an employee or applicant fails.
Purpose Statement: This is an explanation of why the company does drug testing. That purpose could be to comply with federal or local laws, meet requirements for a customer, contract, or insurance carrier, or simply to maintain safety and productivity in your workplace.
Coverage: Most state drug testing laws require policies to state exactly who’s covered. That means spelling out job applicants, full-time and/or part-time employees, or just those in safety-sensitive roles. If you’re going to test someone, their role needs to be listed.
Prohibited Conduct: An employer needs to clearly state that a positive drug test will be viewed as a violation of company policy. Other drug-related activity, such as possession or sale, as well as trying to cheat a drug test, should also be listed as violations.
What Tests and When: Outline all types of testing you plan to do—whether it’s pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, random, or a combination.
Consequences: Be sure to speak with your legal counsel to devise this section because there are many state laws that can affect what kind of discipline you can use.
This might seem like a lot of work at the outset, but the flip side is legal liability. A well-written drug testing policy can prevent a number of lawsuits.
A strong drug testing program can do many things for employers:
Drug abuse causes a long list of headaches for employers of all sizes. It can decrease productivity, lower employee morale and even put people in danger. But partnering with a good drug testing company will help your company mitigate risks.
Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.