Drug testing can better the workplace

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Many employers conduct drug testing of prospective and present employees. It’s a practice that makes sense in many ways.

It can help to “weed-out” prospective employees who have drug issues, can serve as a reminder to present employees that drug use will not be tolerated, and drug testing helps protect the safety of everyone on the farm.

Employees using drugs contributes to increased absenteeism, injuries and lower productivity. These all occur through sick leave, poor decisions, increased workers’ compensation costs, and damage to equipment, among other things.

Employers who implement a drug testing policy may qualify for discounts on their workers’ compensation benefits. Ohio does have a drug-free workplace program that allows employers to drug test employees and applicants.

New law

In October of 2004, Ohio H.B. 223 was signed into law.  Known as the rebuttable presumption law, it is designed to place the burden of proof on the employee to show that a workplace accident was not the result of the influence of drugs.

Ohio employers are authorized to drug test employees in a variety of circumstances, such as following a workplace accident, based on reasonable suspicion, and after an employee returns to work after a positive test.

Employers need to be aware of the potential negative claims that may arise from instituting a drug testing policy. These are often based on how the test was conducted, who was tested, or how the results were used.

Potential issues

• An employer who, while having the legal right to test, violates the testing procedure.
• Disability discrimination — an applicant or employee taking medication for a disability is protected by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Some medications are positive on drug tests that would otherwise be illegal.
• An employee who is fired or an applicant who is not selected because of a positive drug test could have grounds for a lawsuit if the medication was legally prescribed.
• Other claims of discrimination — singling out certain groups of people based on race, gender or age — could be liable.
• Invasion of privacy — depending on the circumstances, asking an employee to disrobe or provide a urine sample in the presence of others may provide reason for a lawsuit.
• Defamation — if an employee tests negative, but the employer publicizes the result as being positive, the employee may have a valid claim of defamation.

Meet with attorney

Before implementing a drug testing policy it is recommended employers do some research and meet with an attorney to make certain everything is being developed correctly. Your attorney can also help you draft a protocol for such testing.

Explaining to employees the reasons why the policy is being implemented is important, and, if explained properly, should help most to understand the need for such a policy.

Resources

Drug testing laws in Ohio can be found at http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/drug-testing-laws-ohio.html. You can also visit Employee Drug Testing Laws in Ohio – Labor Talk Blog — at http://blog.laborlawtalk.com/2006/11/04/employee-drug-testing-laws-in-ohio/.

Another helpful resource is Implementing Workplace Policies for Drug and Alcohol Issues, at http://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/sbg/office-hr/managing-the-workplace/drug-and-alcohol.

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(Chris Zoller is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team.)

2 COMMENTS

  1. I really like how this article talks about how drug use in the workplace can lower productivity for a company as a whole. While I’ve never been drug tested at work, I can see how doing so can increase the quality of workers and overall productivity. If I ever were an employer I would use these tips to potentially implement a test within our workplace. Thanks!

  2. We’ve considered implementing drug testing for our company and I like that your article discusses how drug testing can make the work environment better. I think it was especially important that you pointed out how to keep yourself protected from legal issues while you implement drug testing. I also like that you remind employers to comply with ADA rights for employees who may test positive because of their medication and that they can not be discriminated against. I think this is a good reminder for employers to keep in mind.

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