Cutting through the confusion
With record low unemployment and record high drug use in the American workforce, many employers are confused by the new marijuana laws. According to the latest National Safety Council study, approximately 15 million employees are struggling with some sort of substance abuse problem, including alcohol, marijuana, pain medication and other drugs. Although some industries have a higher incidence of drug abuse – such as construction, retail and the hospitality industry – no profession is immune to the dangers of drug abuse.
Evidently, many employers are faced with the challenge of how to define a drug testing policy along with translating the new marijuana laws. While the federally mandated employers’ policies are very specific and do not permit marijuana use of any type, many employers are ambivalent with respect to marijuana use.
Quest Diagnostics’ recent Drug Testing Index (DTI) shows workforce drug positivity at its highest rate in a decade. States that have recently enacted recreational marijuana laws have seen double-digit increases in the number of employees who test positive for marijuana. And because of our healthy economy, the job market has tightened, making it more difficult for employers to find new hires. As a result, some companies have chosen to drop marijuana from their testing panel altogether – taking the position “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Not surprisingly, states like Nevada, California and Massachusetts that have recently enacted recreational marijuana laws have seen a big spike in the number of employees who test positive for marijuana.
Every employer should be well informed when it comes to drug testing rules and requirements – including the legislation in their state.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) excludes from protection “an individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs” from its definition of an “individual with a disability.” As a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), taking marijuana excludes an employee from ADA protection.
When meeting with a prospective client, I always ask relevant questions in relation to their business. For instance, if they have safety sensitive employees, what type of work do they do? Are they a federal contractor? Do they employ DOT regulated drivers? This info is critical when determining what type of testing policy is recommended or required.
Many employers assume random drug testing is required in order to be compliant and to be eligible for the 5% workers’ comp premium discount. That is incorrect. Random testing is only required for those federal agencies like FAA, US Coast Guard, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the like and FMCSA regulated businesses that employ federally regulated employees or are under a federal contract. Examples include DOT regulated drivers, including tour bus operators, Hazmat regulated companies, transportation companies, etc.
Explain their exposure
The cost of substance abuse in our nation exceeds $400 billion annually. Much of this cost is attributed to lost productivity, health care costs, workers’ comp related injuries and workplace accidents, just to name a few. For a small business that sustains just one serious workers’ comp claim, that could impact their profit margin exponentially.
Did you know?
- Health care costs are 3 times higher for drug users.
- Workers’ comp claims occur 5 times more often among drug users.
- Drug users are absent from work 16 times more often with 8 or more days of sick leave annually
- Drug users steal 4 times more often from employers and coworkers.
- Workplace accidents occur 3.6 times more often among drug users.
The National Safety Council provides a free Substance Use Cost Calculator for employers on their website. By providing industry data, an employer gets a report outlining the potential financial impact substance abuse can have on their business. This report is a valuable tool for every business owner.
Implement a prudent testing policy
For many employers, there can be some apprehension when writing and implementing a policy of any type. It can be confusing, time consuming and complicated. Many insurance companies partner with third-party administrators like ASAP Programs to structure a program for their clients. This is beneficial for both the agency and their clients because it provides a no-nonsense approach to creating a compliant drug testing program and removes much of the guesswork associated with internal administration.
A business that strives for a Drug Free Workplace will reap the benefits ofa healthier and more productive workforce while setting the tone for a positive company image.
For additional info on our drug testing and background check services, please contact me in the Orlando office.