Reasonable Suspicion for Companies: Guide to Organization Drug Testing

By William Bierlein

Employers lose billions of dollars in productivity every year because of substance abuse. Perhaps as severe or worse than the resultant financial losses is how the vice impacts your employees personally. To avoid productivity loss and ensure safety at work, most organizations are now training supervisors on reasonable suspicion drug testing.

While random drug screening and pre-employment drug testing boost your efforts to achieve a drug-free workstation, you’ll likely still confront a colleague impaired by alcohol or drugs while at work.

The steps you take to handle the situation will determine your entire workforce’s overall health and safety. So it makes sense to learn about reasonable suspicion for company drug testing.

What Is Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing?

Reasonable suspicion drug screening is also called probable-cause or for-cause testing. In essence, this is a drug or substance screening that an employer administers when they have reason to believe that a member of staff is using drugs. This may be evident in their behavior or be reported by someone in the office who has heard about or seen them doing drugs.

Drug-free workspaces should have a clear and detailed section within the official workplace policy highlighting the rules and process of drug testing under reasonable suspicion.

This is a common problem, and it happens more often than people realize. As such, entrepreneurs and company leadership must implement the proper protocol. The clearer the rules, the better.

Understanding Drug Testing Rules

Understanding when and how to conduct rapid drug testing can foster a drug-free office culture. But the numerous local statutes and state or federal regulations surrounding these rests make the process a legal minefield that’s extremely difficult to navigate.

Any organization operating in the private sector or under federal guidelines has the right to conduct reasonable suspicion drug tests for health and safety reasons. Workers should firmly understand every applicable alcohol and substance screening regulation, so the appropriate legal and risk management authorities should vet the company’s testing policy.

This will ensure the procedures and policy comply with all testing guidelines. It also protects the organization and its staff. Otherwise, an entity risks making costly mistakes like forcing non-regulated workers into regulated drug testing requirements and vice versa, or failing to heed state-by-state testing guidelines if you operate in multiple states.

While established organizations may have legal counsel or risk managers, most young companies lack the resources to maintain the full-time professionals or staff numbers to justify them. Fortunately, occupational medicine clinicians can come through for disadvantaged organizations.

They offer clinical services during the tests, serve a consultative role to risk managers, and provide insight into drug testing compliance for companies that lack an in-house risk-management department.

What’s Considered Reasonable Suspicion for Drug Testing?

Reasonable suspicion drug testing is conducted based on individualized suspicion of a specific employee. Therefore, an employer must document objective facts suggesting to a rational person that the individual in question violates company policy by being under the influence. Organizational leaders must know the telltale signs of alcohol and drug abuse in the office.

Be on the lookout for the following indicators:

Physical signs

  • Grooming or appearance deterioration
  • Uncoordinated or unsteady movement
  • Slurred speech
  • Unexplained shivering or sweating
  • Unusual breath or body odor
  • Inability to sit or stand still
  • Fidgeting
  • Dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes
  • Sleeping in the office
  • Tremors or shakes

Behavioral signs

  • Acting secretive or withdrawn from others
  • Money issues, or stealing or borrowing cash
  • Attendance issues like absence pattern, tardiness, or excessive absenteeism
  • A decline in productivity or performance

Psychological signs

  • Sudden mood fluctuations, angry outbursts, irritability, or inappropriate laughing
  • Unexplained attitude or personality changes
  • Unexplained paranoia
  • Inability to concentrate

While some of these signs are innocent, you must investigate if you notice several at once or just one that’s becoming a frequent problem. Several managers or supervisors should make firsthand observations whenever a worker is suspected of being intoxicated at work.

Common Drug Test Specimen Types

Conducting a reasonable suspicion drug test requires you to decide how you’ll complete the test – specifically the approach to collecting drug test specimens. The various sample types have different detection times, costs, and ease of collection, so you must consider what will work best.

Here are the most common drug screening categories:

  • Urine drug test – This relatively simple test is also non-invasive and affordable. It can detect recent drug use, including illegal drugs. However, you can’t use it to determine impairment.
  • Blood drug test – It’s costlier to acquire blood samples, and the process is invasive. They’re common during legal investigations and in medical settings and aren’t appropriate for an onsite drug test at work.
  • Saliva drug test – Although saliva samples are costlier than urine, they are relatively non-invasive. They’re easy to collect and can effectively reveal recent use, but more expensive if you need precise findings.
  • Hair test – This is the best option for ascertaining long-term substance use. However, they’re not ideal for reasonable suspicion or post-accident testing because they can’t reveal findings for the past week.

How to Conduct Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing at The Workplace

Reasonable suspicion tests can detect and deter drug use and impairment when done correctly. Any mistake can open your company up to legal risk and operational nightmares. Entities with written alcohol and substance use policies need well-defined protocols highlighting the appropriate steps after receiving impairment reports and how to initiate tests.

Of course, each company has its specific approach that’s more effective, but the following steps are standard for any company to initiate reasonable suspicion drug testing.

Receive Complaints

Coworkers, vendors, or clients may air concerns that a worker is under the influence even before a manager or supervisor realizes it. You can’t use gossip or hearsay as the basis for sending an employee for testing, but you should note down the concerns or complaints.

Executives should ask the reporting member what they observed, when, and if anyone else commented on or witnessed the situation. They should also ascertain whether it’s the first occurrence or whether there are indications of a behavioral pattern.

Observe The Employee

When someone reports employee impairment concerns, at least two HR professionals and managers should confirm the circumstances leading to the claim through their firsthand observation. This helps avoid any impression that the reasonable suspicion test was an arbitrary decision or caused by some animosity with the observer.

Remove Them from Safety-Sensitive Areas

The employee may be working around heavy equipment or machinery, situated in a safety-sensitive section, or are acting out in a manner that can be considered a safety concern to others. Under such circumstances, HR staff and managers may have to remove them from their current location. You may request them to wait in an office or conference room.

Document Your Observations

Observers should document every observation using behavioral and objective terms while avoiding any attempt to diagnose the worker’s state or condition. For instance, instead of saying that the employee was drunk, you should specifically describe the abnormal attributes witnessed based on what you heard, saw, or smelled.

Assess The Situation

Once the situation is on record, HR staff and managers must evaluate their observations and what they know to determine their next move. If the observers find suspicious behavior and can support this through documentation, they’ll move to step six. If they disagree, a third party may also observe and share their view.

Meet The Employee

When the observers warrant reasonable suspicion testing, HR and management should organize a meeting with the worker and clearly explain their observations and documentation. They’ll also demonstrate that they’ll send the employee for a test to rule out the possibility that they’ve violated the organization’s drug and alcohol policy.

Send Them for Testing

The responsible executives should reach out to the appropriate department or test facility to notify that a worker is on their way for reasonable suspicion drug screening. If the testing location isn’t nearby, you can organize transport and ensure the worker isn’t behind the wheels.

Wait for The Results

Based on company policy, inform the worker what to expect and do the next day. Most employers wouldn’t want them to return until screening results are made available. You aren’t obliged to make any nonexempt payments for the days they miss work while awaiting test results. But based on the Fair Labor Standards Act, you may have to pay them.

Responding to Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test results

Your response will depend on the following three circumstances:

If they refuse to take the test

Refusal to take the reasonable suspicion drug test should be treated as a positive test, and the worker should be subject to the appropriate penalties, which could involve permanent termination. If this isn’t already in your policy, the current incident should set precedence.

If they test negative

If the worker is clean, you should contact them and reinstate them to their initial work shift and position as soon as possible. Even though you may not be obliged to pay, it’ll be courteous to pay them for their missed work hours and shifts while waiting for test results.

If The Results Are Positive

You must refer to your policies regarding the vice. Whether you discontinue them or let them stay, you should provide their contact details to an employee assistance program. Depending on your company’s rules, you can offer them a final chance agreement, which lets them seek treatment or counseling and return to work knowing that they’ll be terminated if they repeat the mistake.

Get Quality Supplies for Your Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

The success of your reasonable suspicion screening will depend on the quality of drug testing supplies you use. You don’t want to make a vital decision based on the wrong test results. Fortunately, you’re on the right site.

Drug Testing Supplies offer a broad scope of high-quality equipment and tools to conduct reasonable suspicion tests effectively. Furthermore, same-day shipping is available for in-stock products. Ring 1-321-206-0302 if you have any questions.