Workplace Drug Testing


The term workplace drug testing refers to a series of programs that allow companies to understand if their employees are abusing drugs or alcohol.  Workplace drug testing protects companies and customers from the negative effect of drug and alcohol abuse.


As part of their effort to create a healthy work environment, employers may require their employees to submit to drug testing.  Companies will establish such programs to maintain employee morale and protect their customers, while decreasing on-the-job accidents, theft of property, and absenteeism.  Companies have the option of conducting these tests in several ways, including:

  • Post-Accident:  administered immediately following an accident, the objective of this program is to determine if drugs played a factor in the mishap.  This type of test is usually conducted within 12 hours of the incident.
  • Probable Cause (Reasonable Suspicion):  when a supervisor or manager suspects, or has direct evidence of, drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace, they can ask the employee to submit to a drug test.
  • Programmatic:  tests are typically scheduled and administered to all employees.  Effectiveness at detecting abuse is limited, since employees can prepare for this test.
  • Random:  uses a selection process that randomly identifies employees to be tested.  This type of program is considered a strong deterrent to drug users, since there is no warning of a pending test.  Random drug testing programs are required for individuals working in the transportation and nuclear industries.
  • Return to Duty:  involves a one-time test, which is administered to an employee that previously tested positive for substance abuse.  A return-to-duty test is conducted after the employee has completed a drug or alcohol abuse rehabilitation program and is ready to return to the workplace.  Companies may also choose to conduct a follow up test to ensure the employee remains free of drug abuse.

As part of these processes, the employee may be asked to provide a urine, hair or oral fluid specimen, which may be collected at the employer's medical facility or a local laboratory.  Urine samples can detect abuse in the prior one to three days; hair detection is up to 90 days, and oral fluid 24 to 36 hours.  The drugs most commonly screened for include alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, and nicotine.

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