Reasonable suspicion drug testing is one of the many components of a comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol testing program. Like other types of drug testing, reasonable suspicion drug testing is a tool to deter employees from engaging in prohibited drug and alcohol use and to identify those who do use illegal drugs or misuse alcohol. The overall goal of reasonable suspicion drug testing is to protect the public, your company and workplace safety by ensuring that employees whose behavior and appearance indicate possible illegal drug use or alcohol misuse are removed from safety sensitive duties.
Reasonable suspicion drug testing determinations are sometimes the most challenging aspects of a drug-free workplace program, yet can have a profound impact on safety, well-being and productivity within your company. One of the most difficult things for supervisors about reasonable suspicion drug testing is the fear of being wrong-- of accusing an employee of using drugs or alcohol, of being involved in something illegal or prohibited by company policy. Supervisors often fear being sued or having a labor grievance action brought against them as a result of their decision to conduct a reasonable suspicion drug test. These fears can be minimized if supervisors remember that a decision to require an employee to submit to a reasonable suspicion drug test is not an accusation of drug or alcohol use or an attempt to diagnose substance abuse or addiction. It is rather a method for "ruling out" a possible cause or explanation for employee behavior or appearance that is cause for concern.
To further help supervisors reduce the fears mentioned above, standards require that determinations to conduct reasonable suspicion drug testing be based on specific observations of employee conduct, behavior, appearance or body odors. Example indications that reasonable suspicion drug testing need to exist include, but are not limited to, the following:
Since this type of drug testing is discretionary, it requires stringent supervisor training to ensure consistent application of the program across the workforce.1, 2 The observations must be made and documented by a supervisor who has participated in training (Work Well - online supervisor training) on the signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse and drug abuse and the requirements for reasonable suspicion drug testing. In the case of reasonable suspicion alcohol testing, the observations of employee behavior, conduct, or appearance must be made just before, during, or just after performing safety-sensitive duties. A reasonable suspicion drug testing determination may be made at any time the supervisor observes employee behavior or appearance indicating possible use of controlled substances. Once a supervisor makes a determination that reasonable suspicion drug testing is required, the test should be conducted as soon as possible. If the reasonable suspicion drug testing cannot be conducted, the reasons for the delay must be documented, the employer must remove from safety sensitive duties any employee whose behavior or appearance is indicative of being under the influence of or impaired by alcohol or drugs. This requirement of removal from safety-sensitive duties, in the absence of a test result, is to protect the public safety and ensure that an employee who may not be fit for duty does not continue to jeopardize himself and/or his co-workers. Reasonable suspicion drug testing is important to monitoring employees’ compliance with requirements regarding drug and alcohol use. Employees who engage in illegal drug use or alcohol misuse put themselves, their co-workers and the public at risk. Supervisory personnel have a responsibility to monitor employee performance, behavior and conduct to ensure that they are able to perform safely their duties. Reasonable suspicion drug testing isn't "blowing the whistle" on or "harassing" employees; it is a tool to deter substance abuse, to protect workplace safety, and to identify employees who need help in resolving problems associated with drug or alcohol abuse.
Reasonable suspicion drug testing can play an important role in helping to create and maintain drug-free workplace programs. It is true that many of the signs and symptoms associated with drug and alcohol use may be explained by other factors such as fatigue, family problems, physical illness, emotional problems, or other personal stressors. Although remember, if the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a defensive, hostile responses may be related to the effects of the substances. It is helpful to have another supervisor assist you with, or at least witness, your interaction with the employee. However, when properly administered, it is a fair and reliable testing method that can help to both dissuade and detect drug and alcohol use. DOT reasonable suspicion drug testing is also available through Work Well, PLLC.
1 U.S. Department of Labor. Workplace Drug Testing. Available at: www.dol.gov
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Workplace Programs. Reasons for Drug Testing. February 2005. Available at: http://workplace.samhsa.gov/DTesting.html
3 DOT Supervisor’s Guide – Drug Revised November 2002
To get started with your reasonable suspicion drug testing contact Work Well, PLLC for more information at 713-670-7161.