Timing Matters – Drug Testing During Onboarding

Drug testing is a common part of the pre-employment screening process for many companies. Often, this step is reserved for the final handful of applicants who are being seriously considered for a position. This cuts down on the costs involved and makes administration simpler.

Private employers have a fair amount of freedom when it comes to drug screening applicants. The practice doesn’t run counter to ADA rules (illegal drug addiction isn’t considered a disability) and is perfectly legal in most states. Basically, you can require screening as long as all applicants being evaluated for the same position go through the same testing process. If you can make a case that public safety is at stake, even better.

Employers may also use random or targeted screening of existing employees; but this can be problematic due to privacy concerns (that’s one good reason to screen out people with illegal substance abuse problems before they are hired). However, there is a catch that most HR departments don’t take into consideration until the problem actually arises…

What Happens With False Positives?

There are a number of legally prescribed medications that can trigger red flags on a drug test (a certain episode of Seinfeld comes to mind). According to the EEOC, employers should be careful when asking job candidates about their lawful drug use during the pre-employment phase. Such questions might force an applicant to reveal a disability or lie out of fear of discrimination.

However, if the test results come back positive the employer may then inquire if there are any legally prescribed drugs the applicant is taking that may have affected the results. What if the applicant reveals that he or she is taking a prescription medication for a disabling condition at this point? If the candidate doesn’t receive a job offer after this information is revealed, you’re at high risk for a lawsuit.

Prevent Accusations of Discrimination

One way you can protect your organization is by extending a (conditional) job offer before you perform drug testing. With our Universal Onboarding system, you can present an acknowledgement about your testing policy for the new hire to sign electronically. Our SSR system makes it easy to requisition drug testing for new hires and follow up to make sure it gets done. You can also integrate the onboarding software with your third party drug testing vendor in compliance with your business rules.

If a new hire’s test results come back positive because of illegal drug use and the result is confirmed, you may simply terminate the employee during the probationary period. The employee has already agreed to this policy during onboarding providing you with some protection. On the other hand, if a prescription medication causes a false positive the employee’s job is secure and there is no question of discriminatory hiring practices.

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