Posted in drug screening, drug test, drug testing, employee drug screening, pre-employment drug tests
As states pass legislation legalizing the use of marijuana, employers are finding themselves in a tough spot. Especially if they have policies in place that require applicants to pass a pre-employment drug test before an offer is extended.
Obviously, employers want to know that the people they hire are going to be good workers and that they will not put other employees — or the company — at risk for safety issues. Therefore, many companies have previously chosen to conduct a pre-employment drug test on potential candidates to ensure the applicant is not one of the 23.9 million Americans that are drug users.
But when states like Colorado have legalized marijuana — or as states such as California are considering legislation that would legalize the drug — can employers choose not to employ a candidate who uses a completely legal substance off the clock?
After marijuana was legalized in Colorado, the Mountain State Employers Council created guidelines to help the state’s employers with their drug-testing policies. Their guidelines state that employees cannot be punished for legal off-duty activities, but that employers can still conduct a pre-employment drug test on applicants (and refuse to hire legal drug users) without worry of discrimination.
Meanwhile, some employers prefer not to conduct drug tests at all, because the legalization of cannabis creates a gray area that’s akin to the space between a rock and a hard place: should it be treated as alcohol, fine in moderation? Or should its use be considered equivalent to an illegal substance? And how does marijuana usage fall in regard to zero-tolerance policies?
Traditional drug tests screen for nine different types of substances, including opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines, and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Some expect that, as marijuana usage becomes legal in more states, a standard pre-employment drug test will need to be changed to only test for harder substances. Others are likely to follow in Colorado’s footsteps, and revise their existing drug-testing policies to account for what the company will and will not allow in regard to hiring legal drug users.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing
The FIFA World Cup is, quite literally, good clean fun. So far, after drug testing urine and blood samples from 800 of the sport’s players, not a single one has turned up positive.
That number includes clean drug tests for 91 percent of the members of the preliminary squads for each team. Those squads comprise 30 members, but only 23 members of each team actually traveled to Brazil to compete.
FIFA began conducting drug tests on those competing players during the first nine matches.
Urine and blood samples are collected and sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Switzerland, after Brazil lost its lab accreditation in 2013. Despite being shipped from Rio de Janeiro, FIFA Chief Medical Officer Jiri Dvorak made a statement that “all samples arrived under 36 hours in Lausanne [Switzerland] and were processed within 24 hours.”
Thirty-two teams, including one from host country Brazil, are participating in the World Cup, which began on June 12 and will continue through July 13.
photo credit: CLF via photopin cc
Posted in drug screening, employee drug screening, pre-employment screening
It makes sense that healthcare facilities would want their employees to be healthy, considering that their job is to dole out advice and care to keep others healthy. But do hospitals and health systems have the right to include smoking bans in their corporate hiring policy? Or can banning cigarettes and other forms of tobacco be considered a form of discrimination?
In 2007, a clinic in Ohio began refusing to hire employees that utilized tobacco products. Since then, between 50 and 60 percent of health care clinics have instated similar anti-smoking policies, which may include nicotine testing in addition to any pre-employment drug tests. Insurance group Humana began utilizing tobacco tests during the hiring process back in 2011.
However, some are calling these bans discrimination, including a few professors that have written an article in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Their claims are based on research that claims banning tobacco usage may have a greater impact on those who are “lower-skilled.”
Dr. Thomas Huddle and Dr. Stefan Kertesz — both affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, which has its own anti-smoking policy — contributed to the assessment. Their article states “Smokers are only 18 percent of the adult population in the United States, but they make up 26.1 percent of those with incomes less than $35,000/year and 25.5 percent of those without a high school diploma.”
The report continues that among medical school students, it is “likely to be poorer individuals” and minorities who will be barred from receiving jobs on the basis of anti-tobacco restrictions.
Meanwhile, UAB’s Health System CEO William Ferniany says that out of every 1,000 applicants at UAB Hospital, less than 2 percent of them fail nicotine tests.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not currently protect against tobacco users. The EEOC only protects against discrimination in cases of age, race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, pregnancy and cases of harassment.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
California doctors may find new restrictions in place to prevent potential drug abuse, if a new bill passes. Supporters hope that the bill will prevent doctors from recklessly prescribing painkillers to addicts, and ensure that doctors are not under the influence themselves when practicing.
The bill, called the Troy and Alana Pack Act, has already garnered 830,000 signatures, enough to put it before the general population. The bill was named for bill sponsor Bob Pack’s children after they died in a car crash at the hands of a driver who had been under the influence of narcotic painkillers.
If passed, the ballot measure would require doctors to undergo random drug tests, and would require them to look each patient up in a database before prescribing drugs, in order to make sure the patient doesn’t have a history of prescription abuse. It would also raise the maximum $250,000 “pain and suffering” payout that is currently enforced for medical malpractice.
“If you lose a child because of medical negligence, the law says that child’s life is worth $250,000,” said Brian Kapitack, who works for the Consumer Attorneys of California.
Many doctors and hospitals oppose this bill, on the grounds that it is unnecessary. However, a Consumer Watchdog representative says that 18 percent of doctors will have a substance abuse problem at some point during their careers.
California residents will have the opportunity to vote on the Troy and Alana Pack Act in the November elections.
Posted in drug screening
Because marijuana use can turn up on drug tests, some have turned to the use of a synthetic version of the drug in order to keep usage under wraps. The synthetic version of the drug, which is called “Spice,” utilizes different chemical compounds than marijuana, but has a similar effect on the brain as non-synthetic cannabis. It is also harder for drug tests to detect. Two researchers at the Air Force Academy hope to change that.
Air Force Academy professor Dr. Timm Knoerzer and senior cadet Jacob Krimbill have been working to create a method of detecting Spice, by re-creating the body’s metabolic processes and determining what the drug’s chemical compounds would look like after absorption. To do this, the two had to “boil down” Spice into its purest form and use laboratory space to re-create the effects of human bodily systems.
“It’s like chemical Legos,” said Knoerzer, who has a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical chemistry.
Airmen are more likely to use the synthetic version to prevent drug tests from turning up positive. If Knoerzer and Krimbill succeed in their efforts, drug tests will be able to determine the presence of Spice in the body, even weeks after the fact. Their research may also lead to more knowledge of how chemistry can work in unison with the body.
The two continue to work on research, subjecting their samples to a variety of tests to ensure they’re heading in the right direction. The Air Force Academy’s student-run research work is a point of pride for the campus, and many similar research projects have received federal funding.
Posted in drug screening, drugs in the workplace
Good news for employers: a study conducted by Quest Diagnostics has shown that illegal drug usage has decreased among employees over the past several years. The bad news is that, alternatively, there has been a rise in prescription drug usage, whether or not the drug has actually been prescribed to a particular patient.
Drug-testing laboratory Quest Diagnostics has been reviewing urine tests that were collected over the past 26 years.
The study showed that in 1988, the percentage of employees who failed drug tests for using illegal drugs was 13.6 percent, whereas only 3.5 percent of drug tests turned up illegal substances in 2012. In addition to urine tests, labs are now able to test saliva and hair follicles, to reduce the chances of employees tampering with test substances.
Meanwhile, prescription amphetamine, opiate and painkiller use has increased since 2002, with Vicodin’s usage increasing a whopping 172 percent, and other prescription usage increasing by 70 to 100 percent. While these prescriptions test positive on drug tests, it is not possible to tell just from the tests whether or not an employee is abusing the drug illegally, or if he or she has a valid prescription for the substance. Lab workers must go back through tests and mark them as negative if the employee has a current prescription for the medication. More than half of such tests are considered “false positives” due to being prescribed the medication.
Of course, even if an employee is using a prescription legally, such as taking prescribed painkillers after a work accident, the presence of the drug in the employee’s bloodstream can still affect their ability to perform their jobs. Managers should be aware of their employees’ behavior, and make note of unusual activities, as some prescription drugs can cause dizziness, trouble operating motor vehicles, and other potentially dangerous behavior.
The drug-testing waters are even muddier now that some states, such as Colorado, have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana use still turns up on drug tests, and some occupations prohibit its use even in states where it is legal, for the safety of citizens or other workers. Employers and courts will need to determine if and how to deal with employees who utilize marijuana recreationally, when workplace drug tests turn up positive.
Posted in drug screening, drug tests
The Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Pharmacy in Northern Ireland has developed a new technology that may make drug testing easier, safer and less painful than current blood tests. The university is testing a sticky, plaster-like patch that utilizes tiny, polymer microneedles to test for drugs in the body’s interstitial fluid. Currently, drug tests can be performed by testing the urine, blood, hair, or saliva, though not all methods are equally effective.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is funding the research that award-winning researcher Dr. Ryan Donnelly is conducting. Dr. Connelly says the rough patches — which contain a “forest” of tiny needles — are potentially a safer and less painful means of conducting drug tests.
“Compared with drawing blood, our patches can get their samples in a minimally invasive way,” said Dr. Donnelly. “And it’s far safer than using a conventional needle. These microneedles, once they have been used, become softened, so that there’s no danger of dirty needles transferring infection to another patient, or one of the healthcare workers.”
The patch would be a big step in protecting healthcare providers as well, as millions of health workers are affected each year by needle injuries and infections.
The interstitial fluid, which is the fluid between the body’s cells, contains the same compounds that would be found in the blood, if drugs were present in the bloodstream, so screening processes would be just as effective with the patch as in traditional blood tests.
The patch technology was originally intended to inject vaccines into the skin, and has also been shown to be able to absorb specific fluids from the skin and tissue. Early tests show that it picks up on drug compounds, and researchers are working to expand the detectable concentration of those substances.
Posted in drug and alcohol testing, drug screening, drug testing
With drug use higher than it has been in years past, drug screening for jobs is definitely an important step in the hiring process. There are some employers out there that don’t take part in drug testing because they’re wary of using resources for it’s implementation, but that’s most certainly a mistake.
There are a variety of reasons that employers should never forego this vital step in the process, and here are a few key ones to keep in mind:
Safety in the workplace
Using drugs can alter your ability to do certain tasks safely. Did you know that more than 50% of work related injuries are drug related?
Since using drugs can cause you to be less cautious with the activities that you do, it makes sense that employers would want to keep drug users out of their workplace. Drug screening prior to employment is the best way to do this.
Many times, people that use drugs struggle with productivity. When you have a drug free workplace, you’ll promote higher productivity, more professionalism, and an overall better atmosphere. It also goes back to the safety issues, because fewer accidents in the workplace leads to more productivity.
Finally, consider the average drug user. Most people would agree that drug users are impulsive, and if they are addicted then it can be that much worse. For employers, this holds particular significance to absenteeism.
Absenteeism costs the company money, productivity and potentially clients.
When you’re ready to begin drug screening for jobs in your company, contact us. We can help you from start to finish, and we can also answer any questions that you may have about why drug testing is so necessary.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, employee drug screening
Employment drug testing is definitely a process companies should be considering when planning their hiring strategy, regardless of industry or job role. After all, according to the US Department of Labor, the economy can lose up to $246 billion each year due to substance abuse. Don’t let your company become a statistic.
If you understand the necessities of a drug screening program already and are planning on starting employment drug testing in your workplace, there are several factors that you should keep in mind as you begin to implement:
Know state laws and regulations
First and foremost, you will need to read up on your state laws and regulations when it comes to employment drug testing and analysis. These laws will vary greatly from one state to the next, and the laws can also change very frequently. A mistake here can cost you more than just a slip up during the hiring process, but could plague your business with lawsuits and litigation.
Implement a company-wide policy
Once you are aware of the laws and regulations set forth by your state, you will want to come up with a drug testing policy for your workplace. It is really important for you to define the terms clearly in your policy so that you can avoid problems down the road – taking the time to be thorough now will pay dividends in the long run.
Ensure legal compliance
It may be a good idea for you to hire an attorney to take a look at your new employment drug testing policy. When looking for an attorney, choose one that specializes in employment law, they’ll be able to review the policy and let you know if anything needs to be changed.
Adhere to your policy strictly
One of the most important factors to consider when it comes to employment drug testing is adhering to your policy strictly. As touched on previously, if your policy is unclear or if you waver from it at all, you could open yourself up to a discrimination lawsuit. .
With so many hurdles and loopholes, it’s always a good idea to bring in a professional screening company to help guide you. If you’re ready to implement a new employment drug testing and analysis program in your workplace, contact us today. We can help you to establish a drug-free workplace!
Posted in drug screening, drug testing
A federal court in Maryland ruled recently that the state’s drug and alcohol testing statute prohibits private employers from conducting breath alcohol tests on its employees.
As employees of Vector Security, Inc., Wendell Whye and William Trout underwent periodic, random breath alcohol testing, pursuant to the Company’s substance abuse policy. The tests, which were administered by third-party testing provider Concentra Health Services, Inc., required Plaintiffs “breathe deeply for several minutes [into a breath testing device] so as to produce alveolar or ‘deep lung’ breath for chemical analysis.” The breath samples were not preserved and, in the event of a positive test result, could not be later retested for accuracy.
While neither employee tested positive for alcohol, nor did Vector ever take disciplinary action against them based on test results, Whye and Trout filed suit against Concentra on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, alleging the breath alcohol tests were illegal under Maryland law. Conceding that Maryland’s testing statute does not provide a private right of action, the Plaintiffs alleged common law claims for invasion of privacy and fraud.
Full Story: Federal court holds breath testing for alcohol is illegal in Maryland
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