The Best Government Jobs to Get Into Early

The Best Government Jobs to Get Into Early

GettyImages_499556971Just as in the private sector, different branches of the U.S. federal government base their job salaries on factors, such as location and experience. However, the federal government is known for being generous with benefit packages, regardless of experience or location. But, which jobs within the government offer the best combined salary and benefits for those wanting to get in early and build toward retirement? Based on an assessment of hiring trends, projected growth rates, and salaries, here are five of the top positions.

Civil Engineer

The highest paying job on this list, averaging $52 an hour, is that of a civil engineer. The responsibilities of a civil engineer can include staff management, testing soil and other materials, computing load requirements, planning and designing structures, and providing technical advice. Qualified candidates typically have to hold a Bachelor’s degree (or higher) in Engineering, and show a comprehensive knowledge of math, engineering, design and all relevant technologies.

Accountant

Earning an average salary of $27 an hour, accountants who work for the federal government are responsible for such tasks as developing, implementing and maintaining accounting systems and budgets, and analyzing operational costs and trends. Accountants are typically required to hold a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, or a related field, and demonstrate proficiency in math and economics.

Computer Systems Analyst

A career as a computer systems analyst will earn you an average of $35 an hour with the federal government. The majority of positions require a minimum of a four-year degree in a computer science field. You must also demonstrate knowledge of processors, myriad electronic equipment, and computer hardware and design. Job duties might include testing and maintaining computers and computer systems, using programming language, and resolving staff computer issues.

 

Police Officer and Sheriff

The federal government pays an average of $24 an hour to its police officers and sheriffs. Typical duties include identifying, pursuing and arresting suspects, and investigating, recording and reporting crimes. Though not every entry level position will require a degree, a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as Criminal Justice, is preferable. For those wanting to join the FBI, a four-year degree is a requirement.

Administrative Assistant and Executive Secretary

Just as with police officers, these positions may not always require a four-year degree, as prior office experience and on-the-job training can make up for one. However, a minimum two-year Associate Degree is desirable, and could rank you ahead of those with less formal education. Preparing and reviewing various reports, coordinating services, ordering and distributing supplies, and analyzing and modifying internal procedures are just some of the responsibilities held by administrative assistants and executive secretaries. So, knowledge of general clerical procedures and business principles is necessary. The average wage? $21 an hour.

Federal Government Career Benefits

While the jobs listed above vary in description and duties, each position comes with myriad benefits that make working for the federal government a goal for countless people. Additionally, in the event that a federal employee is injured on the job, or becomes disabled and is otherwise unable to perform his regular duties, federal agencies have a reputation for working hard to try to accommodate the disability. Sometimes that isn’t enough though, and the employee must, unfortunately, stop working. When that happens, federal employees may qualify for a federal disability retirement, which allows them to receive anywhere between 40% and 80% of their highest salary, regardless of position or location. So, working for the federal government can pay well, and offers countless benefits, sometimes even to those who are no longer able to work.

Technology That Will Make Running a Small Business and/or Startup Easier

Technology That Will Make Running a Small Business and/or Startup Easier

537489489Running a small business or startup enterprise takes initiative, creativity, and drive. For intrepid individuals courageous enough to undertake it, time and resources are often scarce. That’s why it makes good sense to take full advantage of new available technology to enhance and streamline your business.

The Small Business section of the New York Times offers articles of interest about technology to small business owners, including topics such as:

  • Using Twitter to market small businesses: Micro blogging is the sole method of advertising for many businesses with no marketing budget.
  • Text message marketing: This article claims that text messaging can increase sales and establish customer relationships for a reasonable cost.
  • Managing your online reputation: This includes interacting with customers and monitoring web conversations.

A February 13, 2015 article on Tech Cocktail entitled New Business Technology for the New Year has several technology suggestions for small business owners. The author claims that by working smarter instead of harder with new affordable technology options, small businesses can streamline operations and maximize returns. According to the article, business owners may consider any or all of the following:

  • Social Media: Although social media is a valuable marketing tool, managing it can be time-consuming. For that reason, it is recommended that you choose one or two social platforms that suit your business audience instead of branching out to multiple platforms. The author recommends Twitter for promoting deals or specials, Instagram for visuals, and Facebook for dialogs with customers.
  • Cloud Document Storage: This makes shared documents accessible from home or mobile devices, but controls are still available as to who can edit or access them. The article recommends affordable cloud storage friendly to small business, such as Box, Google Drive, Drop Box, or One Drive.
  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Phone and Fax: This technology has features that can enable small businesses to present a polished image at very low cost. Switching to VoIP phone and fax could help you improve service and image while reducing costs.
  • Mobile Apps: Apps can replace certain traditional business services and can be particularly useful for hands-on business owners and employees who are seldom if ever in an office. Accounting, travel management, point-of-sale, and a number of other useful business apps are available.

In a December 2013 article on Entrepreneur, author Michael Garrity claims that technology is a vital tool that is leveling the playing field for small businesses. In terms of small business technology, the article recommends the following:

  • Move your business to the cloud.
  • Replace expensive POS solutions with an app on your tablet or smart phone.
  • Offer loyalty and rewards programs to your customers using FiveStars, Belly, or Perka at affordable prices.
  • Take advantage of inexpensive tools such as cloud apps for accounting, HR, and other backend productivity.
  • Use marketing and sales plug-in apps to track customers, active leads, sales pipelines, and more.

As covered in this article, with a tablet and a few essential apps, a small business owner can run a customer’s credit card, promote the daily specials on Twitter, manage payroll, and much more.

Sources:

Types of Disabilities that Typically Receive SSD Benefits

Types of Disabilities that Typically Receive SSD Benefits

GettyImages_178135895When someone is injured at work, or is otherwise rendered unable to earn a living, the situation can seem dire. No income and an injury or illness to contend with can easily lead to feelings of helplessness. Fortunately, the United States government, through the Social Security Administration (SSA), provides a safety net for people who find themselves in that unfortunate circumstance. At the end of 2013, over 10 million people were receiving monthly social security disability (SSD) payments in the United States. The number may seem high, but not all disabilities qualify.

The Social Security Administration provides an online Listing of Impairments that they use to help determine whether or not an applicant qualifies for SSD, but each section is long, complex and cumbersome to read. So, here’s a brief look at some of the most common categories of injuries and illnesses that the SSA has historically approved for disability payments.

Cardiovascular System

Heart and artery diseases fall under this category, as does the full range of disorders that negatively affect the circulatory system. The condition can be acquired, but it can also have a congenital origin.

Digestive System

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver dysfunction, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal hemorrhage are some of the conditions covered under this category.

Skin Disorders

Whether congenital, acquired or hereditary, skin disorders such as certain chronic infections, genetic photosensitivity disorders, burns, and bullous diseases are considered to be valid conditions that can qualify someone for Social Security disability payments.

Musculoskeletal System

The SSA approves some people with certain musculoskeletal conditions for SSD. Such conditions can be acquired, congenital or hereditary, and can range from soft tissue damage to spine injuries, bone fractures, and limb amputations.

Respiratory System

Illnesses, such as asthma, and diseases including cystic fibrosis, are covered under this category. The SSA has even approved some people who have severe sleep-related breathing disorders.

Special Senses and Speech

Vision, hearing and speech are the cornerstones of communication. So, when one or more of your senses becomes diminished to the point that it interferes with your ability to work, you may qualify for Social Security disability payments. If balance is an issue, or you suffer from vertigo, you may qualify as well.

Common Specific Conditions and Diseases

The broad categories listed should help you assess whether or not you have a qualifying condition. However, there are some specific illnesses and diseases that are approved more often than others. The list includes certain cancers, carpal tunnel syndrome, blindness, diabetes, liver disease, traumatic brain injuries, and back injuries, among others. However, even if your condition isn’t commonly approved, it’s still worth applying for SSD if it falls under one of the Social Security Administration’s general categories.

Does SSD Impact Other Benefits?

Don’t be concerned about SSD payments impacting other benefits you may already be receiving, such as pension or workers compensation. It is possible to collect benefits simultaneously. After all, you’ve been paying into Social Security for your entire working life so the benefits could be there for you when you needed them. Even if there ends up being an adjustment in benefits, it is still in your best interest financially to apply for SSD.

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition or disease that will prevent you from working, you owe it to yourself to explore the option of SSD payments. Applying for SSD can be cumbersome, but the long term impact can be positive because, upon approval, you will have a consistent and reliable income stream for the duration of your disability.

Benefits of Joining Professional Networking and Advocacy Associations

Benefits of Joining Professional Networking and Advocacy Associations

178915467As is true in most professional industries, many benefits are available to attorneys who opt to join professional networking or advocacy associations. Having your own practice, or even practicing at another attorney’s law firm, is hard work. While you alone may be able to accomplish a great deal, joining a professional networking association or legal advocacy association allows an attorney to tap into a legal resource pool and coalition of alliances he or she may have never dreamed possible. This can be beneficial to your clients, as well as go a long way towards protecting clients’ rights.

Attorney Makes a Difference as President of the NC Advocates for Justice

Elizabeth City, N.C., attorney Danny Glover Jr. has been recognized as one of his state’s top car accident attorneys, having received a 10.0 Superb Rating on Avvo. In addition to all of the legal publications and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) manuscripts in which his writings can be found, Glover’s work has been highly praised by his clients and colleagues.

As he has learned first-hand the benefits of joining professional networking and advocacy associations, Glover values his membership with the N.C. Advocates for Justice (NCAJ), National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers and AVVO. Having been a proud member of the NCAJ for close to two decades, Glover was recently elected president of the organization.

In his experience, he finds that what he (along with the 3,500 members of the NCAJ) has been able to accomplish in recent years far exceeds anything he could have done on his own. In fact, Glover not only believes membership in the NCAJ has been extremely helpful to his clients, but he also credits the NCAJ with organizing meetings and events, where attorneys from all different fields of law can openly converse and gain valuable insight into their own fields of law.

The Value of Developing a Network of Colleagues to Offer Input and Support

While every state has different types of professional peer-based organizations individuals can join to help them develop a network of colleagues capable of providing valuable input and support, not all attorneys avail themselves of these groups. This is unfortunate, particularly due to the fact that neglecting to build a network like this can actually hinder your rate of success as an attorney. It can also deny you many other benefits including:

  • Access to expert witnesses
  • Assistance with gaining an understanding of certain laws and legal jargon
  • Important business connections
  • Advocates for legislative changes
  • Peer community you can turn to for guidance
  • Like-minded associates
  • A stronger voice in state legislative issues
  • Continuing legal education
  • Ability to remain informed about the latest legal developments
  • Promotion of your services, through the organization’s directory

If you are a practicing attorney, who has not yet developed a network of colleagues who can offer you input and support when you need it, we recommend you take the time to do so. Research organizations in your area and find those which have similar goals and objectives to yours. The rewards available to you by being part of a professional network and advocacy association are many.

Is Your Business Insured Against Terrorism?

Is Your Business Insured Against Terrorism?

picjumbo.com_IMG_7453There isn’t a time in memory when businesses haven’t been touched by the legal and financial implications of war. We’ve worked with and hired veterans who possess extraordinary commitment and skill. Our employees have been sent to war, and we’ve navigated the laws regarding their continued employment. We dutifully pay our taxes, knowing some of the funds will be used to finance the military. But, until the domestic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we never had to consider war, or more specifically, terrorism, when choosing our business property insurance coverage. Until then, insurance companies hadn’t given it much thought either.

The History of TRIA

The aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001 changed that, and not for the better. Prior to 9/11, acts of terrorism weren’t specifically included or excluded by most insurance companies. After 9/11, reinsurers had no way to accurately gauge the risk of terrorism exposure, so they changed their coverage to specifically exclude acts of terror. Since reinsurers were no longer covering it, primary insurers excluded terror from coverage as well. State regulators approved such exclusions in most cases.

Since damages resulting from terrorist attacks were no longer covered, many business sectors became vulnerable, including construction, energy, transportation, real estate, and utilities. In 2002, to sidestep any potential threat that vulnerability could bring to the national economy, Congress enacted TRIA, or the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

What is TRIA?

TRIA requires primary insurers to offer terrorism coverage for specific types of insurance. To help offset the risk taken on by the primary insurers, the federal government will fill the role of reinsurer, serving as a backstop in the event of a terrorist attack. Primary insurers will submit claims to the federal government’s Share Claim Process. After reviewing and approving the claims, compensation will be dispersed to the primary insurers by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The Federal Terrorism Insurance Program was established to handle administrative duties related to helping the post-9/11 insurance market recover, as well as to facilitate recovery after any future terrorist attacks. Overseeing the Federal Terrorism Insurance Program are the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Insurance Office.

The Future of TRIA

Each time TRIA is set to be considered for extension, anxiety arises from impacted sectors that are concerned about the possibility of canceled or unfunded projects. So, given the importance of TRIA, it’s clear that it will exist in some version for the foreseeable future. Recent history shows that to be true, too. In 2007, TRIA was amended and extended by Congress. In January, 2015, President Obama signed a six year extension of TRIA, staving off new concerns that commercial loans and projects could be halted if TRIA were to lapse.

 

Among other things, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) requires insurers to offer certain types of coverage for acts of terrorism. But, the Act doesn’t make the insurers go it alone. Instead, TRIA assigns the federal government the role of reinsurer in the event of a terrorist attack. TRIA is the law, and insurers are obliged to abide by it. Click here for more information about TRIA, and click here for more information about the Federal Share Claim Process.

SEC Investigating Web-Savvy Pyramid Schemers

SEC Investigating Web-Savvy Pyramid Schemers

pyramid-schemePyramid schemers had better watch out. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is on the lookout for web-based pyramid schemes that may be exploiting the booming direct-sales industry.

Investigations are actively under way and at least one company has already been shut down by the SEC as a result of allegations it was nothing more than a “fraudulent $129 million pyramid scheme.”

Direct sales can be an extremely profitable business model. With more than 16.8 million Americans being employed in the direct sales industry, it is no real surprise that web-savvy con artists are interested in tapping into the industry’s success.

The problem is, these individuals are looking for an easy way to make money without having to sell a lot of product or offer a service people can use. This is what the pyramid scheme is all about.

The Basics About Pyramid Schemes

A basic idea behind the pyramid scheme is that the more people you recruit to “work” under you, the more money you will make. It is a multi-level marketing program where success is based on the number of people you can recruit, the number of people they can bring in under them, and so on. The people at the top of the pyramid stand to make the most money, as the people lower down are simply paying off the people who invested above them. Should recruiting action slow down or come to a halt, the money source will quickly dry up and the scheme will fall apart.

Joseph Mariano, of the Direct Selling Association, says pyramid schemers have evolved over the years and are now extremely adept at making their scheme appear as if it is a legitimate business. If you are involved in direct sales and more emphasis is placed on recruiting family and friends to join you in your direct-sales activities, or the list prices on items you are supposed to sell seem overly inflated, you may be involved in a pyramid scheme.

Internet Schemers: Putting a New Twist on a Very Old Type of Fraud

The SEC’s enforcement chief has stated that, “Fraudsters are leveraging social media to put a new spin on an old type of fraud.”

Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others are prime places for these people to market their schemes, solicit recruits and entice others to join in. Others who come in on lower levels of these pyramid schemes may also consider social media as a way to boost income.

Unfortunately, The New York Times reports many such marketing offers are simply too good to be true. Creating fake friends (bots) on social media, and offering their services, has become its own pyramid scheme. Twitter reported to the SEC that approximately 23 million of its accounts are bots (fake accounts) and Facebook states it finds between 67 million and 137 million fake accounts each year.

Fake friend creators charge people who are interested in increasing the number of followers they have or in having their products and services promoted, yet deliver no discernible results. Companies and individuals who pay these types of schemers are often left with nothing more than false, inflated numbers.

Sources:
The Wall Street Journal: SEC on Lookout for Web-Based Pyramid Schemes
Securities and Exchange Commission: Pyramid Schemes
The New York Times: Social Media Bots Offer Phony Friends and Real Profit

Supreme Court Rules Against Employees in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Appeal

Supreme Court Rules Against Employees in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Appeal

supreme-court

In the closely monitored high profile case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Busk, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that internet retail giant Amazon and its contracted employment agency, Integrity Staffing Solutions, are not required to pay employees for the time they spend waiting to be screened after they clock out from work. The original lawsuit stated that employees must wait up to 25 minutes every day just to pass through a security checkpoint, and that the wait is not optional.

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that waiting in line does not pass the test of being “integral and indispensable” to their jobs, as is required by federal law. If the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the employees, the decision would have had sweeping implications for other businesses that require their employees to pass through security checkpoints before leaving work.

Lawsuit History

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2010 by two employees who worked at one of Amazon’s facilities in Nevada. The employees contended that the security checkpoints were understaffed, and shifts for multiple employees ended at the same time. So, the lines to leave were often very long. They, and others, believed that because the security checkpoints were not optional they should be compensated for their time. The employees also believed that Amazon should be required to implement measures that would reduce the time spent waiting in line. A district judge did not buy the employee’s argument and dismissed the original suit.

On appeal, the lower court’s decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, where it was determined that the security checkpoints were in fact relevant to the employee’s jobs, and the searches benefitted the company. As a result of the court’s reversal, an appeal was then filed by Integrity Staffing Solutions, and it was heard by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s Response

In his response, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Amazon “did not employ its workers to undergo security screenings, but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package those products for shipment to Amazon customers.” Thus, the act of waiting to be screened cannot be categorized as “integral and indispensable” to the job. In addition, Justice Thomas wrote that the argument made by employees that methods could be used to reduce waiting time should be “properly presented to the employer at the bargaining table, not to a court.”

Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor agreed with the Court’s decision. They, too, made a distinction between the processes of checking in and out of work and actually performing assigned tasks. Since the security checkpoints are not relevant to the work performed, they argued, the company isn’t responsible to pay its employees for the time they spend going through the screening process.

Echoing the sentiment of the other judges, Justice Antonin Scalia stated during the proceedings that the search “is not part of the job”. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. went even further, saying “No one’s principal activity is going through security screening. He hires them to do something else and then the employee screening is certainly not the principal.”

The case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc v. Busk was critical because if the Supreme Court had sided with the employees, the decision would have set a nationwide precedent. The domino effect would have eventually resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being paid to employees in nearly every industry.

It’s Not Just Customers Who Can Slip and Fall; Employees Also Face Risk

It’s Not Just Customers Who Can Slip and Fall; Employees Also Face Risk

slip-and-fallThe busy holiday shopping season coincides with the onset of winter weather in Virginia, which can create slippery walking surfaces in and around shopping centers due to rain, snow, ice and snowmelt. While this can create a treacherous situation for customers, it can also lead to slips and falls for retail employees during their busiest time of the year.

These slips and falls by employees at shopping centers, malls, stores and other retail establishments can lead to workers’ compensation claims, not to mention painful injuries for employees.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), risk factors for slips and falls in the workplace include: ice, snow and rain; loose mats or rugs; spills; poor lighting; and walking surfaces in disrepair. NIOSH recommends taking steps to prevent workplace falls, such as placing signs when surfaces are wet, using slip-resistant mats, installing proper lighting and choosing flooring material that will reduce the chance of falls.

The Cost of Slips and Falls on the Job

Falls are serious business for employers and employees. Statistics from the National Floor Safety Institute indicate:

  • Falls account for more than 8 million emergency room visits, and slips and falls account for more than 1 million visits, or 12 percent of all falls.
  • Fractures often are the most serious consequences of falls, and occurring in 5 percent of people who fall.
  • Slips and falls represent the primary cause of lost days from work due to occupational injuries.
  • Slips and falls are the top cause of workers’ compensation claims and are the leading cause of occupational injury for people age 55 and older.
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, floors and flooring materials are the direct cause of more than 2 million fall injuries yearly.
  • 85 percent of worker’s compensation claims stem from employees slipping on slick floors, according to Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets 5th Edition.

Preventing Falls at Retailers

Zurich Services Corporation’s “Slips, trips and falls for retail,” offers a 10-point program meant to guide to help retail management teams reduce and control slips and falls in the retail environment. It indicates that business owners or managers must work to maintain safe walking surfaces at all times, especially when snow and ice are present.

The guide recommends slip-resistant flooring for retail outlets, citing studies that indicate 80 percent or more of the moisture on employees’ and customers’ shoes can be removed with the addition of quality entrance mats at store entrances.

The guide also reported that the average workers’ compensation claim value for slip, trip and fall accidents over a five-year period was $26,460, with falls related to ice and snow having an average claim value of $28,218.

Making a Claim for Workers’ Compensation After a Fall

In Virginia, all workers, including retail employees, may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they have a slip-and-fall accident while on the job. If you need emergency medical treatment after the accident, make sure to tell the medical team you were injured on the job.

If you have been injured on the job in Virginia, you should file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. You should report the injury to your employer immediately – no later than 30 days from the date of the accident – and file a claim with the commission within two years of the accident.

Your employer may arrange for you to see a doctor after your accident. The employer should also file a report of the accident within 10 days. It’s also a good idea to seek help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you have suffered a fall while on the job.

Commercial Drones: Are They Legal?

Commercial Drones: Are They Legal?

droneAnytime potentially significant technology becomes available, new laws must be enacted to ensure the rights, safety and security of all who live and work with and around said technology. Unmanned aircraft, or drones, are no exception. The hype that has built around the business potential offered by drones has hit a fever pitch, with business owners even trying out drones as vehicles for product delivery. Be warned, however, because the legal path has not yet been cleared for businesses to take advantage of this new technology, and you could end up in court.

No Consensus

The Federal Aviation Administration, along with federal, local and state courts, have been grappling with the issue of drones, but they haven’t yet reached a consensus. The courts have reversed more than one FAA decision, though the FAA still prohibits all drone use for commercial or business purposes, except when an industry or business is given an exemption, as was the case recently in the Los Angeles area. Given that exceptions are available, is it easy to get one? The answer is no.

Can You Get an Exception?

Currently, there are three paths to being granted an exception to using drones for your business. Until the FAA and the courts come to an understanding and agreement on the rules of airspace use, it’s best to follow one of these three methods to avoid confusion and the headache of dealing with the FAA.

  • The first option is to make your way around some of the federal aviation regulations (FARs). For example, there is a FAR that requires a registration certificate to be displayed. Since drones are unmanned, there won’t be anyone aboard to see the certificate.
  • Second, someone who operates in the private sector can apply for an SACE, or Special Airworthiness Certificate/Experimental. This certificate can be used to fly the unmanned aircraft for specific purposes (research, training), but only in a very specifically defined area that must be approved by the FAA.
    The SACE application is 20 pages long, and consists of questions about the flight characteristics and design of the drone. Rarely does the FAA grant a request, and most that are approved are subjugated to one of only six sites that were approved by the FAA for research into drone integration. There are exceptions, however, including larger drones that are allowed to be flown in Alaska for the purposes of gas and oil exploration.
  • Finally, the third path is to be granted a Certificate of Waiver and Authorization, or COWA. Formally, this process isn’t available to civilians, but only governmental groups (military, police). While the FAA has granted several hundred COWAs, they have been mainly for said governmental agencies.

As is obvious, getting approval from the FAA to use unmanned aircraft for your business is challenging. Unless you own a business that does wildlife research, training, or has ties to gas and oil, right now at least it’s probably best to keep your ideas to implement a drone into your business plans on the back burner. While the courts may back you in the end, following the FAA rules now will save you a lot of time and money.

Liability and a Drug-Free Workplace

Liability and a Drug-Free Workplace

drug-free-workplaceThe competitive environment in which we live and work can tempt many business owners to cut corners to ensure they can keep their products and services competitively priced. Some things simply should not be cut, however, because they elevate the employer’s risk while only reducing the overhead marginally. A case in point is the importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace.

Even in today’s highly competitive marketplace, making sure that your employees are drug free and sober on the job is of paramount importance. Drug testing isn’t required in every industry, but regardless of the bottom line, if you want your business to thrive, you need to be confident that your employees are drug free.

Avoiding Liability

The number one reason given by business owners for mandatory drug testing is that it helps them avoid legal liability. The liability extends to co-workers as well as customers and clients. If an employee is intoxicated and causes harm to another person, or damages property, the business owner can be legally liable. So, when a business owner requires drug testing, it helps him weed out troublesome employees, thus mitigating the potential for problems. However, requiring drug tests to avoid liability issues will only work if you know the laws related to the process. Otherwise, you could be looking at a whole new set of liabilities.

Legal Limits

Drug testing has been recognized by various United States courts as an action that invades the privacy rights of citizens. As such, limitations have been placed on how and when an employer can require a current or potential employee to submit to a drug test.

Overall, those with the most rights are current employees since they could potentially lose their job if a drug test came back positive. Job applicants, however, only lose out on a job opportunity. Since the courts have fought to find a balance between individual and business rights, there are a few limitations that could apply to you and your business if you require drug testing. For example, the most commonly known laws related to drug testing revolve around prescription medication. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against someone who takes a legally prescribed medication that would otherwise be illegal.

Another example of legal protection related to employment drug testing is the act of requiring a specific group of people to be tested for drugs, while forgoing the requirement for others. If an employer only tested his Catholic employees, for example, he would be in violation of discrimination laws. An exception to this rule can be made if the employer requires drug testing for everyone who serves a specific role (ex: delivery drivers). It would not be considered discrimination if the same employer chose not to test the office staff.

 

The above are general scenarios associated with limits on drug testing. If you have a concern about a specific situation, and whether or not you are legally allowed to drug test someone, contact your state’s labor department.