Chesapeake Employers strongly supports comprehensive drug-free workplace programs, especially within those workplaces involving safety-sensitive duties like operating machinery. And we can help you start a workplace drug-testing program. A comprehensive drug-free workforce approach includes five components:
A substance abuse policy, especially when drug testing is included, must be reasonable and take into consideration employee rights to privacy. The policy can be short and to the point, but it should specify where the employer stands on the issue of drug use, what the employer expects from employees, and what the employer will do if the policy is violated. Before distributing the policy to employees, consult with an attorney to make sure the policy conforms to state and federal laws that could impact when, where, and how drug and alcohol testing can be performed. Lastly, require employees to sign the policy stating they will agree to abide by the rules of the policy.
As those with the most direct contact with workers, supervisors can detect performance problems that could indicate substance abuse. Supervisors should be taught about the different types of drugs available and how to detect their use. They may be called upon to refer an employee to the company's Employee Assistance Program or to other local resources. Supervisors are not responsible for diagnosing the reason(s) for a substance abuse problem, or for treating such problem(s).
It is essential for employees to understand the company's commitment to creating and maintaining a drug-free workplace. Whenever workers are hired or rehired, they need to know about the company's policy. Current employees need to have the policy reinforced as well. In addition to providing copies of the policy to all new hires, employers should post the drug-free workplace policy on their websites for all to see. Additional methods of educating employees include showing videos and sharing printed materials that discuss the negative health effects of alcohol and drug abuse.
The most effective way to protect your company is to establish and enforce a substance abuse policy to include drug- and/or alcohol testing. Employers will need to make sure that the drug-testing program meets several requirements, including state and federal legal requirements; disability discrimination provisions; collective bargaining agreements; and any other requirements that may apply to their particular business or trade. Decide who will be tested – applicants, employees, or both? When will they be tested – as a condition of employment, after an accident, randomly, or all of the above? What substances will you test for? And how frequently will this testing take place?
Under Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. Section 17-214, employers may test their employees for drugs and alcohol for a "legitimate business purpose." However, the statute outlines specific procedural requirements and employee rights in cases where positive results may be used for discipline.
Maryland state law does not place restrictions on the types of testing that may be conducted, but does require that specific technical procedures be followed. For example, all testing must be conducted at laboratories certified by the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
Employers can also find more information on workplace drug-testing programs at the U.S. Department of Labor's website: www.dol.gov/elaws/asp/drugfree/drugs/screen2.asp
More and more companies now offer Employee Assistance Programs to help their employees cope with personal issues including substance abuse. EAPs can help identify many problems and help resolve them by providing confidential, short-term counseling, referrals to specialists, and even follow-up services. If given the chance to recover, often an employee can once again become a productive and effective member of the workforce.
Employers and employees alike benefit from a drug-free workplace in ways that can be measured financially and otherwise. In addition to workers' personal safety, additional benefits can include savings on employer insurance costs because of fewer accidents and less property damage. Also, employers can expect increased productivity, higher morale, and positive public image.