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Drug Free Workplace
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Drug Free Workplace

Jeffrey L. Roth, JD

Statistics cited by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations indicate that nearly one in four employed Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 have used illegal drugs in the past year. Many businesses suffer a real impact to their bottom line as a result of the cost of substance abuse. These costs include workers’ compensation claims (users file twice as many workers’ compensation claims), absenteeism, lost productivity, and high employee turnover.

Only 5 to 10% of small and medium-sized businesses have implemented drug and alcohol-free workplace programs, but 75% of employed Americans work for these small and medium-sized businesses. The general perception is that implementing such a program may be administratively burdensome and costly to a smaller employer. However, when considering cost versus potential savings, there may be a compelling case to consider such a program.

The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations publishes information regarding the implementation of a Drug-Free Workplace program which includes pre-employment drug testing of employees, as well as drug and alcohol testing of employees who are involved in a workplace accident. Complete information regarding requirements and all the required sample policies and forms can be found at http://dir.alabama.gov/wc/drugfree.aspx. Employers who participate in the program are required to provide a couple of hours of training per year and comply with applicable employee drug and alcohol testing procedures. Compliance with these procedures relating to collection and processing of a urine sample for testing can be as easy as engaging a local physician’s office or hospital to provide such a service. The going rate for a test which is sufficiently regimented, controlled, and reviewed to withstand legal scrutiny is approximately $45 per employee.

In addition to reducing the avoidable costs referenced above, and minimizing other risks associated with having employees in the workplace under the influence of drugs, such as theft, or issues associated with safekeeping of controlled substances, those employers complying with the Drug-Free Workplace guidelines receive a 5% discount on workers' compensation insurance. Also, employees injured in a workplace accident who refuse to submit to or cooperate with a compliant drug and alcohol testing policy after an accident, forfeit any right to recover workers’ compensation payments.

An additional item to consider in deciding whether or not such a program and related policies would be beneficial to your practice is the fact that illegal drug users tend to seek out positions with employers who do not test. Implementing such policies could improve the quality of your applicants on that basis alone.

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