According to the US Department of labor, “drug use in the workplace costs employers $75 to $100 billion dollars annually in lost time, accidents, health care, and workers compensation costs.” Implementing a pre-employment drug screening program is a crucial step in preventing these types of costs. Some companies will require both a background check and a drug screen before an applicant can be considered for employment. Reported percentages vary, but researchers in general have found that almost all Fortune 500 companies require drug testing as part of their hiring process or as a condition of employment.
Pre-employment drug testing is carried out by sending applicants to a specimen collection site. The testing is often ordered to be completed within a day or two of application for employment to prevent the applicant from stalling so they can “get clean” before the test is conducted. Most drugs can be detected within 2-4 days of their use, though certain drugs can be detected for up to 14 days. The most common drugs tested for include the following:
Once a specimen is collected, it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Negative results are available within a day. In the event of a positive test, the results are re-verified before the company and applicant are notified. A sample of a positive test result is always retained in case of applicant complaint. If an applicant refuses, the response is the same as if there had been a positive test result.
Drug testing has been upheld multiple times in court as a legal prerequisite for employment. Companies are encouraged to obtain written consent from the applicant before the test is administered and to make it clear throughout the application process that the decision to hire would be contingent on passing the drug test. To prevent accusations of discrimination, it is best practice to test all applicants for the presence of drugs, or else to make it a requirement for only certain positions within the company. In addition to preventing workplace accidents, maintaining a drug free workplace has been shown to decrease tardiness, turnover, attitude problems, theft, crime, and violence.
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