Pre-Hire Process – including Drug Screening

HopefullSo, you just interviewed the most spectacular applicant for that job that’s been open for two and a half months. He was highly-recommended by one of your best employees. He was charming, had an answer for every question you threw at him, and has already passed the background check. The problem is, he didn’t tell you about that methamphetamine addiction he’s had since he was sixteen. How disappointed are you going to be when that mandatory drug test comes back positive, and the hunt for an employee resumes?

One business owner said this of pre-hire drug testing: “As a fairly active employer when it comes to hiring, I need to share with you my recent frustration when it comes to new hires and drug testing. We have had a particularly bad run in the last quarter with over a dozen failed tests. With over half of the candidates being college grads, I was particularly surprised! It actually seems more like an IQ test, why take it if you are going to fail? People currently in a job hunt should really be more aware of how testing works, and be prepared to pass. It is both disappointing and expensive for us as employers.” It’s not just losing out on a great new hire that caused his headaches. In three months, he tested 39 prospective employees at $45 per test—that’s an estimated $7,000 a year spent on drug testing, and only 25 percent passed. Their ages ranged from 21-52 years old, and the employer estimates the additional cost of the wasted time and expense that went into interviewing these people prior to the test at more than $24,000.

Drug testing does not only affect pre-hires—current employees may slip up and fail a drug test. What then? Here are some tips on handling and limiting drug use in the workplace:

First of all, explain that alcohol and tobacco are not included in the test, but that illegal substances, like marijuana, are. Marijuana or hashish is usually the substance that causes issues for applicants. Describe what happens in a clinic that administers the tests, as this may help eliminate any apprehensions a pre-hire might have.

As an employer, you need to know up front if an employee will not be able to pass a drug screen. If your approach makes them feel judged or guilty or fearful of being punished, they will likely be less than honest and might not take you seriously. If you suspect a candidate might present this barrier, be direct and explain the consequences.

It is important to have a no-drugs policy at the workplace, because businesses without substance abuse policies can be particularly vulnerable. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration says, “Individuals who can’t adhere to a drug-free workplace policy seek employment at firms that don’t have one, and the cost of just one accident caused by an impaired employee can devastate a small business.”

The American Council for Drug Education advises businesses not to be an enabler by concealing substance abusers’ poor work performance or lending them money. You might think you’re helping, but it’s more likely that you’re making it possible for the abuse to continue. Drug and alcohol addictions are complex problems that should be handled by professionals. Getting professionals involved is probably the best thing you can do, not only for the individual, but also for the workplace. That being said, it is a good idea to help, if at all possible, if you suspect or know that an employee is abusing drugs. Even if the employee has to be let go, a simple, sympathetic follow-up could make a big difference.

Some things to look for, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration that could indicate an employee has a substance abuse problem include: work absences without notification, frequent disappearances from the work site, work performance that alternates between high and low productivity, and progressive deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene.

Drug addiction may be a disease, but it shouldn’t afflict your business. Protect yourself and your employees with strong drug policies.