The 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.
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.
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.