When To Give A Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test

According to the Wall Street Journal, more American workers are testing positive for drugs than they have in the last twelve years as of spring 2017. Researchers believe that this drug test spike is a result of the legalization of marijuana in several states (including California), although cocaine and methamphetamine have seen an increase as well.

This of course has been a huge issue for companies, both DOT and non-DOT. As more and more business owners have to deal with the possibility of their employees using drugs, it’s important to know what signs to look for in order to prevent accidents from taking place.

If an employer suspects a worker is on drugs, he or she should be able to have that employee take a drug test under “reasonable suspicion”.

What Is Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing?

A reasonable suspicion drug test is a drug screening that is administered to an employee when the employer has reason to believe that they’re using drugs. This could be because of their behavior, or because someone in the workplace has seen or heard about them doing drugs.

A drug-free workplace should have a clearly-written, detailed section about drug testing under reasonable suspicion in the official written drug-free workplace policy. This is an issue that happens more often than people realize, and having the proper protocol in place is very important. The clearer, the better.

What Are The Signs Of Drug Use?

One of the issues with requesting that an employee take a drug test under reasonable suspicion is that everyone has a different idea of what it might look like for an employee to be using drugs. However, there are some classic telltale behaviors that might help an employer discern:

  • The employee is lethargic, has slurred speech, is repeatedly drowsy, stumbles often, and acts or speaks strangely.
  • The employee has caused an accident or multiple accidents.
  • The employee’s appearance has changed drastically in a negative way (bloodshot eyes, unkempt grooming habits, excessive weight loss, or gain).
  • The employee exhibits noticeable mood changes: going from being irritable or withdrawn to extremely energetic or talkative after breaks.
  • There is evidence of the employee engaging in workplace drug use or drug distribution.
  • The employee’s work performance deteriorates: they are absent often or late.
  • Other employees have mentioned that the employee is using or distributing drugs.

Some of these signs, on their own, are innocent. But if you begin to notice a few of them altogether or even just one that is becoming a problem, you may need to investigate.

Carrying Out A Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test

As mentioned before, your written drug-free workplace policy should clearly state what to do in the event of reasonable suspicion. However, no matter what your policy states, there are some important things that an employer should do in the early stages of noticing signs:

  • Document each instance in which the employee is exhibiting strange behavior, causes a problem, or has a noticeably altered appearance. This includes recording any time these things are reported by another employee (not just an employer).
  • Get advice from a drug abuse professional. Although everyone has an idea of what drug abuse may look like, most of us aren’t experts. If you truly suspect an employee is using drugs, ask a industry professional about it. If you’re mistaken, speaking to someone with drug abuse recognition expertise could save a lot of hassle, time, and drama.
  • When you feel that you have enough documentation and everyone is in agreement, it is then appropriate to meet with the employee that you suspect of drug abuse. It’s during this meeting that you can explain to the employee what has been observed and documented. Be sure to have another manager or employee with you as a witness during this meeting.

Once this has all happened, the employer has the option to follow whatever is stated in the written drug-free workplace policy.

Remember, knowing that an employee is using drugs and ignoring it is very dangerous for the employee, the company, and anyone who may get hurt as a result of their mistakes.

Consortium Pool is a DOT drug and alcohol testing consortium which provides training programs as well. To find out more about DOT compliance and drug tests, take a look at our DOT Compliance page. Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in our services.