The 4 times you need to drug test an existing employee

While many employers conduct drug and alcohol testing as part of their regular pre-employment screening process, they often find that knowing when to test existing employees can be more challenging.

Best practices for testing existing employees vary depending on state laws regulating workplace drug testing, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permits most drug-testing programs to ensure a safe and drug-free workplace.

When to drug test an existing employee

There are four times you should conduct drug tests of existing employees:

  1. After a furlough or layoff lasting 90 days or more. As many businesses and states reopen after COVID-19-related closures, employees are also coming back on the job. If your business is bound by Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and regulations, you must conduct a new round of pre-employment drug and alcohol screens on any employees who return after a furlough or layoff lasting 90 days or more. This is an updated rule from the previous 30-day guideline to reflect the new reality under COVID-19.

    Even if your business isn’t bound by DOT rules, re-testing employees after a prolonged absence is a good business practice to maintain a safe workplace.
  2. After a job-site accident. Post-accident drug testing can determine if drugs or alcohol contributed to a workplace incident. However, OSHA prohibits employers from administering “blanket” post-accident drug tests in situations when it’s likely that drug use didn’t cause the accident.

    Instead, testing must be limited to situations where employee drug use may have caused the accident or injury. Drug testing to evaluate the cause of a workplace incident is allowed if the employer tests all workers who may have contributed to the incident, not just the employee(s) who reported injuries.

    According to the DOT, employees in safety-sensitive positions are required to submit to drug or alcohol testing under certain circumstances. Testing is administered when the employee is performing safety-sensitive functions and is involved in a work-related accident that:
    • Results in either death or a citation to the employee under state or local law for a moving traffic violation arising from a work-related motor vehicle accident, and
    • When any vehicle requires towing from the accident scene or any involved person requires treatment away from the accident scene.

In non-DOT industries, employers often choose to test employees if the accident involves fatalities, injuries requiring medical assistance, police citations or significant property damage. Many also require the employee to stop working until after they have received their drug test results.

  1. Reasonable suspicion. When an employee suspects another employee of working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can report the suspected employee to a supervisor. The supervisor must document any facts suggesting that the individual is under the influence. These could be physical signs (such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech), behavioral signs (such as excessive absences or a decline in performance) or psychological signs (such as changes in attitude or sudden mood changes).

    However, a solid drug and alcohol policy must in place that prohibits drug or alcohol use in the workplace and allows employees to report reasonable suspicion. In addition, supervisors, managers and HR personnel should be trained with Reasonable Suspicion Training to learn the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and alcohol misuse in the workplace.
  2. Random drug screen. If your company policy allows for random drug screens, an employer can test an employee at any time. This can be especially important in high-turnover industries or for employees working in safety-sensitive positions.

The importance of a drug and alcohol policy

As an employer, you must establish a drug and alcohol policy that clearly communicates the details of your drug-testing policy, including how and when it can occur. This not only informs employees of your policies and procedures but also outlines repercussions if an employee tests positive.

Zero tolerance policy: If your company chooses to do so, your policy could include zero tolerance. Employees can be terminated immediately after a positive test to ensure a drug- and alcohol-free workplace.

Second chance policy – Your company may choose to offer a second chance policy. In this case, you require the employee to complete a substance abuse program, which may include regular random drug screens. If the employee doesn’t complete the program, they could be terminated according to your company policy.

How Noble Diagnostics can help

Noble Diagnostics can help you efficiently conduct drug tests of existing employees.

Partnering with a drug screening expert like Noble Diagnostics will help you stay current with ever-evolving legislation, regulations and workplace best practices so you can develop an efficient drug and alcohol testing program.

At Noble, we can help you:

  • Develop a clear drug and alcohol testing policy
  • Design a comprehensive testing program that is both legally compliant and effective
  • Conduct reasonable suspicion “signs and symptoms training”, via e-learning or in-person
  • Answer questions with expert advice from your own dedicated Major Account Coordinator (MAC)

Contact Noble Diagnostics to discuss your needs today.


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