The Human Resource: The impact of drug testing

Small businesses rarely establish extensive pre-employment or random drug testing practices in the earliest stages of growth

Starting with the very first hire, whether strategically planned or reactive to a surge in demand of your business products or services, the hiring process is perceived as a necessary evil to obtain the human capital to perform the work necessary to meet customer demand.

What happens when your small business chooses to bid on a project for a regulated private company or government agency that requires all your employees involved in the delivery of products or services to have been drug tested?

The simple gut response may be to quickly perform drug testing of the staff you believe would be part of the project. This approach is not strategic, well thought out, or the most appropriate or effective way to ensure compliance with the proposal requirement(s) or manage the potential risk to your workforce when implementing a reactive change that directly impacts the employees.

Before you move forward with action, pause and reflect on what the request is from the prospective client. Review the details of the requirement(s) to understand if there are specifications regarding new hires, regarding all employees involved or just those onsite, regarding the type of drug test requested, and any limitations or subsequent random testing necessary to maintain the contract if awarded.

The answer to these questions will inform your decision making as to strategy for implementing drug testing practices for your business, not to mention detail for you what drug test product to request from the vendor you choose to conduct the testing service.

There are a wide range of considerations in the design, development, and implementation of drug testing practices for your workforce. At a bare minimum, your organization should establish a clear policy on what is unacceptable behavior in the workplace, specifically targeted at arriving to work, or becoming under the influence during the scheduled work day.

This policy must include when drug testing will or may be performed, such as during the pre-employment process after an offer is made, randomly of all employees, certain classification of employee, or randomly when unusual and potentially unsafe or dangerous behavior is observed by a supervisor or member of management. This policy should clearly and transparently define the responsibilities of management and the employees, the process to communicate and notify employees of drug testing, and reference or include procedures to execute a random drug test.

All processes should include a documentation component to defend and justify the action to mitigate possible allegation of discrimination, and all aspects of the policy need to be enforced in a consistent and fair manner.

Reporting and accountability should be clearly defined and expectations set in the policy. Issues ranging from refusal to comply with a testing request to a positive result are possibilities, and therefore your policy should document what the company response and action will be when these events happen.

Going back to our small business who is now about to make a change in their human resource practices related to drug testing, communication with the employees is critical to ensure they understand the change, they are provided and trained on the policy, and given an opportunity to communicate any issues or concerns they have during the transition to the new practice.

While the knee jerk response noted above may be to quickly test some of the employees to win a bid, this can have disastrous results from an inconsistency perspective and potentially negative impact on the business.

For example, what do you do if a tenured employee tests positive? Do you simply avoid having that employee participate in work for the proposed project, do you implement corrective action or discipline, or do you have an obligation to provide support for treatment and recovery?

Perhaps you will recognize the potential risks of having this employee working for current clients and feel conflicted about what action to take next. It is possible as the business owner you never considered the increased liability and risk to having an employee who performs work at the client’s residential or commercial location doing so while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What would the impact be on a liability claim if the insurer uncovered information that demonstrated the employee involved was under the influence at the time of the incident? Who will they attempt to blame?

Regardless of the catalyst for implementing drug-testing practices, I hope this article highlighted for you the plethora of considerations and decisions that should be made to ensure a successful transition to a new human resource practice such as the implementation of drug testing. If you navigate this change initiative effectively you will be well on your way to position your organization to be a successful bidder for your client’s project.

* The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to: editor@chaddsfordlive.com

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About Warren Cook

Warren S. Cook is a co-founder of SymbianceHR and leads all client-consulting engagements. He is a human capital strategy management subject matter expert with more than 20 years of experience as a strategic business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for all client-consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized complex human capital strategy solutions that meet the client's business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren combines his human capital, project management, and business management experience with a philosophy of solving business challenges through the strategic implementation of policies, processes, and procedures to deliver sustainable solutions that demonstrate ROI, mitigate and manage risk, and empower organizational success. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today” and holds a bachelor of science degree in human resource management, a master’s of business administration in project management, and a master’s of science degree in industrial and organizational psychology. He is also a SHRM Certified Professional.

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