Make Your Workplace Drug Free

Posted on Monday, January 28, 2019

Employee drug and alcohol abuse can cost your company in many ways, including increased absences, workplace accidents and high health costs. In addition, studies show that drug users are five times more likely than other employees to file a worker's compensation claim.

Where Do Full-Time Illicit Drug Users Work?


44% work at companies with 1 to 24 employees
43% work at companies with 25 to 499 employees
13% work at companies with 500 or more employees

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

To protect themselves, many companies now routinely administer drug and alcohol tests to job applicants and employees. If your firm isn't among them, the Department of Labor (DOL) warns that you may become an "employer of choice" for drug abusers who are unable to get — or keep — a job with employers that do drug testing. In other words, applicants who use drugs avoid companies that routinely give tests.

Large U.S. corporations are more likely than smaller and medium-size firms to have well-established and formal drug testing programs, according to the DOL.

To show how testing can help your firm avoid hiring a problem employee, consider the results of another study done by the U.S. Postal Service. Employees who tested positive in a pre-employment drug test were 66% more likely to be absent from work and 77% more likely to be discharged within three years than those who tested negative.

Caution: Despite the advantages of drug and alcohol testing, make sure you have sound legal advice before you get involved in any program. Mishandling the issue can result in costly and time-consuming litigation. Take care not to violate employees' rights. Federal and state laws must be followed and test results must be kept confidential.

For some companies, testing is mandatory. Federal law requires employers to drug test employees in the transportation industry, for example. If your firm has a government contract, testing may be required and some of your customers may ask for a guarantee that your employees are drug-free.

With the help of a legal advisor, it's a good idea to put any policy in writing in your employee handbook, employment contracts, job applications and other documents.

Decisions to Make

When will the testing take place — before hiring, randomly or when an employee is under probable suspicion? (In general, job applicants have fewer legal rights than current employees.)
What type of test will you use?
What are the consequences of a positive test?

Before going forward with any substance abuse policy or testing, make sure it is legally defensible by getting expert advice. For more information from the U.S. Department of Labor, go to

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Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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