What is Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing?

If you’re in a career where drug testing is a common occurrence, such as the transportation industry, then you have heard of reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing. For all employees who operate heavy machinery, drive commercial trucks or limousines for clients, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issues the right for employers to conduct reasonable suspicion testing. But what determines a suspicion as being reasonable?

Is Reasonable Drug Testing Legal in the Workplace?

Just as employers have the right to drug test employees before being hired, they can test current employees for drug use if there is a reasonable suspicion.

What Makes a Suspicion Reasonable for Drug Testing?

This is often a tricky question for employers and workers because everyone has their own opinions of what constitutes a suspicion being reasonable and unreasonable. Some states have created guidelines to help ensure employers are requiring drug tests appropriately and to protect the employee from being discriminated against. A few examples of reasonable suspicion that can lead to drug testing include:

  • Clear observation of an employee’s drug use or the physical symptoms, which may include slurred speech, unusual behavior, lethargic behavior, abnormal stumbling, and odd statements and answers to questions
  • Deterioration of work performance, including consistent tardiness and absence
  • A report of drug use from a trustworthy source that has been independently corroborated
  • An accident at work caused by the employee
  • Evidence of drug use or the distribution of drugs at work

Can an Employer Conduct Random Drug Tests Without Having Reasonable Suspicion?

Many states require that employers must have a reasonable suspicion for testing based on the reasons listed above. But in many industries, like the transportation industry where workers are engaged in safety-sensitive activities that can pose a risk to the general public, random drug testing is an essential part of the workplace. And random testing does not need to be based on reasonable suspicion; it involves all employees’ names being put into a pool that generates random shuffling of names to be chosen for random drug tests. Therefore, testing is conducted based on the amount of employees in a company, not on reasonable suspicion. Companies in the transportation industry need to ensure that all employees are drug-free 100% of the time and random drug testing is the most effective way of doing so.

The Requirements of the DOT

The Department of Transportation issued safety regulations regarding anti-drug policies and programs in 1988. These regulations were designed to help protect the safety of the public by preventing drugs and alcohol to affect transportation employees. The 1988 regulations involve those in the aviation, railroad, commercial motor vehicle, commercial marine, and the liquid and gas pipeline industries. A few types of drug testing are required for all businesses in the transportation industry, which include pre-employment, post-accident, random, return-to-duty, and reasonable suspicion testing. For each of these types of tests, urine specimens are collected and sent to a medical lab for testing. Once the screening is complete, a medical review officer reviews the results. If a drug test is found to be positive, the medical officer will often contact the employee first to see if there might be any reasons why the test came back positive, such as any medications that might have altered the results. If there are no justifiable excuses, the officer will immediately contact the employer.

What Happens if a Random or Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test is Positive?

For all DOT-related businesses, a positive drug test of any kind will result in the immediate termination of the employee or the immediate activation of a return-to-duty proceeding. Return-to-duty drug testing is a second chance for employees and allows them to become drug-free and complete intermittent testing and a final drug test to prove their sustained abstinence from drugs. If a worker successfully fulfills the requirements of the return-to-duty testing, they are allowed to resume their job duties.

The DOT has issued specific rules for drug testing in the transportation industry. If you’re a business owner involved in this sector, you need to ensure your company remains DOT-compliant all the time. For more information about DOT drug and alcohol testing and if you need to hire a comprehensive DOT-compliant drug screening service, look no further than Consortium Pool.