Drug Testing in the Texas Workplace

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, companies lose an estimated $100 billion each year due to drug and alcohol abuse. This is due to workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism, productivity loss, associated medical costs and employee turnover.

If your company is considering drug testing for applicants or current employees, the following information will help you design an effective drug testing policy.

Legal Requirements

While it is left to the discretion of most private employers, employee drug testing is required by federal law for the rail, air or trucking industries.  Passed in 1991, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act requires DOT agencies to implement drug and alcohol testing of employees within the transportation industry whose performance affects the safety of others. Also, some federal contracts require that employees of the government contractor undergo drug testing as well.  Absent the transportation industry or federal contracts, in Texas, there are virtually no limitations set forth for private companies who wish to conduct drug testing.  That said, the Texas Workforce Commission has very specific standards and procedures for drug testing if you wish to satisfy unemployment “misconduct” based on drug or alcohol usage.

Key Components of an Effective Drug-Testing Policy

It is very important to tell employees why a drug testing policy is being implemented. While cost savings is one factor, it is important to convey that drug testing will help to establish and maintain the safest workplace possible. Make certain that there is no room for interpretation of the policy. Otherwise, you could expose your company to future litigation.

The following should be considered when setting up a drug-testing policy:

  • What, exactly, is considered a violation of the drug testing policy?
  • When will employees be subject to a drug test? The following are examples of reasons an employer might require a drug test be administered to an existing employee:
    • They are exhibiting alcohol- or drug-related symptoms at work, such as slurred speech or erratic behavior,
    • They have contributed to an accident at work, or
    • There is evidence that the employee has used, possessed or sold drugs while on the job or privately.
  • Which employees will be subject to drug testing? For instance, employees working with heavy, potentially dangerous, machinery might be subjected to drug testing, while others will not.
  • Exactly what are the consequences when an employee tests positive?
  • Will employees be subject to an immediate drug or alcohol test in the event they are involved in an accident while working on behalf of the employer?
  • Even though providing an option for rehabilitation is not mandated by Texas or federal law, this can be a very constructive addition to a drug testing policy. It exhibits empathy, and can be a great option for keeping otherwise productive employees.
  • Test results must be kept confidential.
  • Ensure employees sign a document that confirms they have read and understand the new drug testing policy.

Also keep in mind that any drug testing policies, as with all other employment policies, should be applied in a non-discriminatory way.

Drug Testing for Texas Employers

If your company has decided to implement a drug testing policy for either job applicants or existing employees, consult with an attorney experienced in employment law. The attorneys at Simon | Paschal PLLC can help you confidently implement a drug testing policy that is both comprehensive and effective.

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