Best Practices for Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

By Dave Smith, Employment Law Services

Reasonable suspicion is a type of drug testing that occurs when an employer sees signs and symptoms of current impairment at work. Reasonable suspicion testing should be part of every drug and alcohol testing policy. This article discusses decisions to be made and best practices to follow in administering reasonable suspicion drug testing. You first need to decide what you will do when employees test positive. Will a positive drug test always result in termination? Will other factors, such as job performance or time with the employer, be considered in determining the appropriate discipline? Or will you support the employee through a rehabilitation program?

Then you need to decide what you will do with a negative result. The negative drug test only means the employee was not impaired by alcohol or the illegal use of drugs. The employee may have been impaired at work by the legal use of a prescription drug, lack of sleep, illness, etc. Regardless of the reason, employers do not have to allow employees to work while impaired. Therefore, the employer should discuss why the employee was impaired and take appropriate action.
Best practices for employers who conduct reasonable suspicion testing include:
Training management personnel with authority to send employees for testing in the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol impairment.
Arranging transportation to and from testing. If you are sending an employee for a reasonable suspicion test based on your determination that the employee may be currently impaired, you do not want to expose yourself to liability by allowing the employee to drive.
Suspending the employee until results are received. Because employees sent for reasonable suspicion tests are suspected of violating policy, a best practice is to suspend the employee until the employer receives the drug test results. Whether to pay the employer for the suspension is largely up to the employer. Most employers pay employees if the drug test results are negative, but do not pay if the result is positive.
MSEC can help you develop and administer your drug testing policy, answer your questions, find drug collection sites and labs, and provide you with the most recent drug testing developments.