Weighing the Pros and Cons of Workplace Drug Testing

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Few dispute the value of drug testing to providing a safe work environment, but the truth is that drug testing for employment programs can be a hassle. Are the rewards worth the cost?

Five Factors

Quite often, the decision to drug test requires weighing the following five factors:

Laws and Regulations

Federal and state laws mandate drug testing for various positions. For example, anyone working in transportation or childcare must pass a drug test. But beyond these kinds of specific regulations, drug testing laws are complicated. Some states allow drug testing, and others don’t. There are laws governing when the test can be done, how random testing can be done, and when companies can require testing following suspicion or accidents. Companies desiring a drug-free workplace must pay special attention to the laws in their area. The cost of legal counsel relating to drug testing must be considered when considering the program’s total cost.


Drug testing is expensive, especially for small businesses. Frequently, employers choose to spend money on drug testing most often when safety is a significant concern. In fact, in safety-sensitive situations, employers typically conduct pre-employment drug tests and random drug tests during employment. 

Risk Mitigation

Drug testing prevents accidents, reduces health insurance costs, lowers absenteeism rates, and improves productivity. Organizations that place a high value on mitigating these risks find value in drug testing programs.  

Candidate Experience

No one likes a drug test. Users certainly avoid them when they can, but even sober folks don’t enjoy the collection of a drug test. Drug testing can also slow down the hiring process, which is hard on the employer and the candidate. 

Other Considerations

Beyond these five main factors, employers who choose to drug test must also decide the following:

  • When to test. Will they sole request pre-employment drug tests, or will their policy also include random testing, post-accident testing, or testing following reasonable suspicion?
  • What is reasonable suspicion? Employers need to document what observed behaviors constitute reasonable suspicion carefully.
  • Are there ways to monitor job performance without drug testing? If employees are clearly intoxicated or high, drug testing may not be necessary for disciplining unacceptable or unsafe behavior. 

The Answer: It Depends

Ultimately, the answer about whether or not to drug test depends on your business’s needs and any federal or state mandates. Drug testing does contribute to safer work environments, but it’s certainly not the only way to mitigate risk and keep your workplace secure. Carefully considering the risks and rewards will help you decide what’s suitable for your organization.

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