Reasonable suspicion drug testing is a type of testing program employers use when they find evidence or make observations indicating an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work
It is different from random testing because it is only performed when a manager or another employee has made direct observations of an employee’s unusual behavior, symptoms of substance use, or possession of marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs in the workplace.
Upon making these types of observations, the employer can send the employee for an immediate drug test and medical evaluation to check whether they are impaired as well as determine the cause of their impairment.
There are many benefits of incorporating reasonable suspicion drug tests, including:
- Mitigates risks of accidents, injuries, and potential litigation through the removal of drug and alcohol users from safety-sensitive roles.
- Provides supporting evidence for the basis of a warranted adverse employment action based on substance abuse at work.
- Protects against potential discrimination complaints by having a standard policy that is consistently applied to all employees.
- Serves as a deterrent to employees who might otherwise use drugs or alcohol while working.
- Reduces costs caused by employee abuse of substances, including productivity losses, high rates of absenteeism, increased workers’ compensation claims, and workplace accidents.
Before an employer can order an employee to test, they must have a reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol through direct observation. If you think the employee might be impaired based on your observations, ask another supervisor or manager to also observe the employee so that you can confirm your suspicions. Make sure you document in writing what you observed to support your basis for conducting reasonable suspicion drug testing.The documentation should include the date, time, specific indicators of impairment you observed, the name of the second observer, your name, and the employee’s name. Be specific with your observations to provide a clear picture of what you observed. Carefully document your observations.
Inform the employee that they need to take a reasonable suspicion drug test immediately. Don’t allow the employee to drive to the center. Instead, arrange for an on-site Mobile Collector to come to the workplace and conduct the necessary testing.
Under 49 CFR § 382.307, trucking companies that are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are required to provide reasonable suspicion drug tests to drivers they suspect of violating the alcohol or drug requirements.
A reasonable suspicion exists based on specific observations of a driver’s appearance, odor, behavior, and speech.
For alcohol, these observations must be made immediately before, during, or immediately after a driver has been subject to the alcohol prohibitions for commercial drivers. The alcohol test after an accident must be done within 8 hours after accident and for drug testing has to be within 32 hours after the accident but both should be done within the first 8 hours.
Alcohol prohibitions for commercial drivers include the following:
- No measurable amount of alcohol in their system within four hours of going on duty or driving a commercial vehicle
- No operating under the influence or using alcohol while driving
- No transporting alcohol unless it is a part of the shipment
Follow these best practices when you implement a reasonable suspicion drug testing program at your company:
1. Include Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing in Your Company’s Drug Testing Policy
You should have a written drug testing policy at your company that clearly details when reasonable drug testing will be used, the types of observations that might prompt it, and how it will be conducted.
Having a written policy can ensure your program is standardized and consistently used with all employees who are suspected of using illicit substances or alcohol.
2. Notify All Employees About Your Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing Program
Give your employees written notice that your company will be implementing a reasonable suspicion drug testing program along with a copy of your company’s drug testing policy.
3. Train The Supervisory Team
All of your supervisors and managers should undergo training about the signs to watch for and what should happen when they suspect an employee might be under the influence at work.
4. Fully Document the Observations and Retain Copies
Whenever a supervisor makes observations that lead them to suspect an employee is under the influence, they should fully document their observations.
Your company should keep the documentation confidential but retain it in the appropriate personnel file.
5. Don’t Allow an Employee to Drive to the Testing Center
If you suspect an employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, never let them drive to a testing center.
If you do, you could expose your company to substantial liability if your employee causes an accident on their way to or from the center.
Instead, arrange for on-site drug testing of the reasonable suspicion drug test.