According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 70 percent of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. Marijuana is the most popular drug that is abused, but cocaine and certain prescriptions are also common. While screening your candidates before making a hire can help weed out drug users, it is not uncommon for an existing employee to fail a random drug test.
Here are our tips for handling a positive drug test by one of your employees:
- Establish a policy in advance. Have a drug-testing procedure in place before beginning random drug tests. The procedure should state the types of tests used, their frequency and consequences for failing.
- Expect excuses. Common alibis include: “It must have been from secondhand smoke,” or “I had a poppy seed muffin for breakfast.” Your employee likely won’t admit to taking drugs, so respond in a way that is level-headed but uncovers the truth.
- If an employee tests positive and denies using drugs, re-evaluate them with a follow-up test. Use a qualified lab and have results confirmed by a medical review officer. Make sure to rule out a positive test caused by medications that are being taken as prescribed.
- Relieve the employee of their duties. This is especially important when the employee has duties that directly affect patients or involve safety concerns.
- Offer rehabilitation services. Employee assistance programs are helpful for treatment or counseling. In some cases, such as a first offense, termination should not be the first choice. In fact, immediate termination for drug use is prohibited in certain states.
- Set a probation period. If the employee completes counseling or another rehabilitation program, you can ease them back into work duties while promoting continued recovery. Revoke certain responsibilities and privileges until they pass subsequent drug tests.
- Be fair. Don’t play favorites with employees you’re friends with or those who are in leadership positions. Treat everyone fairly and offer everyone the same level of support.
Have you ever experienced a positive drug test in your workplace? How did your practice handle it? Share in the comments below.