Posted in background checks, drug screening, drug testing
The FBI has a fingerprint database for conducting federal criminal background checks, and plenty of organizations and employers require their employees and volunteers to be fingerprinted as a way to ensure the workers do not have criminal records. But can fingerprint background checks be used for anything besides criminal records? A new study shows they can.
Researchers at the University of Surrey in the U.K., along with researchers from other U.K. and Netherlands universities, have just found another reason to collect fingerprints: drug tests. A new study shows fingerprints are able to provide indicators that an individual has recently used cocaine, by using a mass spectrometer to detect atom-level benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine excreted in sweat.
“When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolize the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue,” said Dr. Melanie Bailey, the lead author of the study.
The samples that the researchers tested were from drug-treatment participants in the U.K., and both fingerprint and saliva samples were taken to compare the results.
Potentially being able to conduct drug tests through fingerprints would be extremely beneficial to employers: there would be far less risk of individuals faking drug tests by utilizing bodily fluids other than their own, as an individual’s fingerprint stores both the test results and the person’s identity; and the collection process would be easier, more sanitary, and less invasive, since urine or blood would not need collection.
In addition, law enforcement could use miniature spectrometers in traffic stops in which driving under the influence is suspected.
However, that technology is not yet available to the public, and remains very expensive for the time being. The researchers expect that portable and affordable spectrometers will be available within the next 10 years.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace
Starting July 1, Oregon residents that are over age 21 will be able to legally use marijuana recreationally. In addition, Measure 91 will allow individuals to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis legally, carry one ounce publicly, and grow up to four cannabis plants at their home. But that doesn’t mean that employers are on board.
Until July, all marijuana use including medical marijuana is illegal in the state, but once the new law becomes active, employers will still not be required to update their drug policies. At some businesses, employees can expect no leniency when it comes to a failed drug test, even after the drug is declared legal and if the employee has a prescription. Individuals who utilize the drug recreationally or medically during non-working hours can still fail a drug test at work, and in the state of Oregon, employees can be terminated for almost any reason, provided they are not protected by a union. It will be up to the individual employer to determine how to handle a failed drug test.
This subject was brought up in a 2010 Oregon Supreme Court case (Emerald Steel Fabricators v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries), in which the court ruled that it is not disability discrimination to fire or refuse to hire someone that uses medical marijuana, because federal law bans the use of the drug. It is expected that the state courts may see some challenges to that ruling over the coming years.
“So long as marijuana is criminalized under federal law, the argument about whether you can be fired for your off-the-job use doesn’t go very far,” said Portland employment attorney Michael Rose.
Those who are employed by the federal government and those who work under federal contracts are, and will continue to be, governed under zero-tolerance drug policies mandated by the government, since federal law does not recognize pot legality regardless of the state’s stance. Other jobs that require employee sobriety, such as those in the transportation and manufacturing industries, may also require employees to continue to follow zero-tolerance policies.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, employment
Does your business currently have a drug testing policy in place? If not, you may consider creating one. If you do, you can improve your business and increase profits by conducting drug tests both when new employees are hired, as well as conducting random drug tests and screening after any kind of accident has occurred.
Here are a few ways you can see improvements in your company by drug testing, from a former human resources manager and director.
Find better workers.
When word gets around that your company conducts drug tests, you’re automatically able to screen out potential employees that won’t be able to pass drug tests — because they are less likely to apply for jobs at your business. You’ll receive higher-quality applicants that are more likely to show up on time and do their jobs efficiently, which will also provide the added benefit of making the work environment nicer for new and existing employees.
Reduce the number of accidents.
While it’s a good idea to continue to conduct random drug tests after an employee has been hired — especially after any kind of workplace accident — doing preliminary drug tests can dramatically improve work conditions due to improved safety for all workers; if employees care about the work they’re doing and are not impaired or absent during working hours, fewer mistakes and missteps are likely to happen. Likewise, fewer accidents mean your company will spend less on workers’ compensation claims and lost time.
Cut down on unnecessary expenses.
Hiring a new employee is more expensive than retaining a good one, and the costs of a bad hire are astronomical. Between the time spent on interviewing and background checking, productivity lost due to a position remaining unfilled for any length of time, and training new employees, your business may find itself eating funds it shouldn’t be.
Contact Mind Your Business for more information about how to implement a drug-testing policy and get started on screening, and see how your business can improve.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employment, failing drug tests
As more and more states continue to discuss the legalization of medical marijuana — or at least the decriminalization of possessing small quantities of the drug — employers must consider whether to update drug-testing policies and how to best deal with employees who test positive for a legal drug. However, when it comes to hiring workers from across state lines, legalization puts some employers in a bit of a pickle.
Medical marijuana usage is still illegal in more than half of the states. Employers in those states would, obviously, have their own drug-testing policies in place that would not have been changed, because their state’s laws have not changed. But if an employer in one of those states is considering hiring a candidate from outside the state — perhaps from one of the states in which marijuana is actually legal — it creates a confusing situation.
Should an applicant be denied a job in another state because he or she utilizes a drug that is legal in the state in which he or she resides?
One problem is that THC — the active ingredient in cannabis — can stay in the body for weeks or months after using the drug.
“If you’re a heavy smoker, you may never test below the limit, even thought you might not be impaired,” wrote Tony Coder, assistant director for the Drug Free Action Alliance in Columbus, Ohio.
Some employers choose to keep existing drug policies in place regardless of whether the applicant is coming from a state where the drug is legal, as even some employers in those states have zero-tolerance drug policies.
“We treat all employees the same [regardless of where they’re from],” said Mike Godwin, Human Resources VP for Eggleston Services, a hiring agency in Virginia. “It is a drug-free environment. Until the Commonwealth of Virginia decides to make a change, we wouldn’t make a change ourselves.”
Because the issue of marijuana legalization is such a gray area at this time, employers should make sure that existing drug-testing policies are followed consistently, regardless of where the applicant is from.
Officially, marijuana usage is illegal by federal law, but the administration has allowed the states to determine for themselves whether they want the drug legalized in their own states.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, failing drug tests
Although it has been seven years since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee has plans to continue screening past competitors and medalists for performance-enhancing drugs. If it finds drugs in the samples that it collected before and during the 2008 Games, the IOC can still strip winners of their medals.
The IOC will also be testing samples from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London, though those are of a lower priority, as the statute of limitations for drug-testing samples from athletes is 10 years.
The reason the IOC has waited so long to re-test the Beijing samples? Drug testing technology continues to improve over time, and newer tests may be able to detect drugs that six- and seven-year-old tests weren’t able to catch.
“Who knows what tests are going to be developed over the next two years?” asked IOC Medical Director Richard Budgett. “It makes a lot of sense to wait another couple of years for [testing the samples of] the majority.” Budgett estimates that the number of samples to be re-tested will be “in the hundreds.”
Some Olympians that were suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs back in 2008 — but were not caught — have already had their samples re-tested, and may continue to be re-tested until the statute of limitations runs out in 2018. (The statute of limitations was recently extended from eight years to 10, thanks to the World Anti-Doping Code.)
Those athletes that are likely to be competing in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games may also have their past samples more heavily scrutinized.
At least six athletes from the 2008 and 2012 Games have already been stripped of their medals since re-testing began. Samples from previous Olympics have been stored in a Swiss laboratory since 2004.
photo credit: BEIJING OLYMPICS via photopin (license)
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
At the end of February, Alaska officially legalized recreational use of marijuana for citizens that are over the age of 21. However, employers in the state — and in fact, across the country in other states in which recreational or medical cannabis is used — find that they are not sure how to handle employee drug tests when the drug in question is no longer illegal.
Alaska has a large number of jobs in oil, gas, transportation and similar fields, where safety is of the utmost importance, and so of course employers are concerned about employees arriving to work impaired. But it may take some individuals taking their cases to court before it is determined how far employers may go in reprimanding or even firing employees for marijuana use, when it is on the employees’ own time and is not affecting the ability to work.
Similar problems have arisen in Colorado, and at least one court case has found its way to the state Supreme Court. There is also a precedent in Alaska from a state Supreme Court case in 1982, that employees may be fired for failing drug tests provided there is a “nexus between the use and the work.”
Neither state, nor any of the others that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, can take cues from federal law, as marijuana usage is still illegal at the federal level.
The legislation that allowed marijuana legalization to be voted on in Alaska — ballot measure 2 — stated that “[employers] have the right to make up their own rules about cannabis use.” Of course, it goes without saying that disciplinary action may be taken against an employee who shows up to work under the influence of any drug or alcohol.
“Alcohol is legal, but I imagine most jobs, if you show up drunk, you’re getting fired or disciplined,” said Jason Brandeis of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center.
The issue with drug testing for marijuana is that traces of cannabis can remain in one’s system for days or even weeks after use, so it can be difficult to determine when the drug was actually used.
One human resources consultancy has begun teaching classes for employers about how to create drug-testing policies that make it clear what company expectations are regarding drug use. Other employers think existing drug policies are still fine and should be left as-is.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy
With the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics just a year and change away, participating countries are starting to think about testing for performance-enhancing drugs. One country in particular has struggled with conducting out-of-competition drug tests, relying solely on international IAAF drug-testing results.
Craig Reedie, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency and VP of the International Olympic Committee, spent some time in Jamaica recently to check on the status of the country’s rebuilt drug-testing program, after it was discovered in 2013 that, in the six months before the 2012 Olympic Games in London, no out-of-competition drug screening was conducted on any of the country’s athletes.
Jamaica has taken home 28 medals in track and field events since the 2004 Summer Games. In 2013, eight Jamaican athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The purpose of Reedie’s visit was to ensure that Jamaica is re-establishing an anti-doping program, so that potential Olympic athletes will be able to undergo the rigors of pre-Games drug tests in the months before Rio de Janiero. After its visit, the WADA and Reedie are pleased with the country’s efforts.
“I have to say, nobody could be anything other than hugely impressed by the amount of work that has been done,” Reedie said. “From the WADA point of view, we are proud of what you have achieved.”
As part of its improvements, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission has improved its staffing and budgets, and the country has also passed an anti-doping law. It is considering blood drug tests for the future.
In other news, golf will be considered an Olympic sport in 2016 for the first time since 1904. The PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, has announced that any player that is eligible to compete in the Olympics as of May 6, 2015, will be subject to random drug testing during these months leading up to the 2016 summer games.
Posted in drug screening, Federal law, prescription drugs
As more and more states contemplate making medical marijuana legal (for those who have a doctor’s prescription), two U.S. Congressmen filed bills late last month in an attempt to end the federal government’s blanket ban on marijuana. The concern is that — while the current administration is fairly lax about enforcing the drug’s ban, allowing the states to determine if medical marijuana can or should be legalized — future administrations may crack down on federal bans and overturn all existing (and future) state laws that allow for legalized pot.
“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters … to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” said Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, who introduced one of the two bills. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works, and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”
Together, if passed, the federal bills would relegate marijuana to the same class as alcohol, transferring its regulatory control to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as set up an excise tax on regulated cannabis. Neither bill would make marijuana legal in every state; it would still be up to each state to regulate and pass laws regarding its usage, production and sale.
Currently, four states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana usage, and 23 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Meanwhile, other states continue to consider legalization.
Utah Sen. Mark Madsen has prepared a bill that would allow for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state — similar to state-run liquor stores — which could sell marijuana oils, lozenges and edible goods for those with a doctor’s diagnosis of specific medical problems. While Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has yet to see Sen. Madsen’s bill, his spokesman stated that he is opposed to medical marijuana being legal.
Tennessee is also considering two bills that state representatives hope will make medical marijuana legal. One of those bills would make it so users of the drug would not be able to be penalized by employers, landlords, educators or lawyers for utilizing the drug. Both bills are currently out at committee.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing policy, drug tests
In a move that goes against its former drug-policies, the NCAA may be tightening the reins for college athletes who utilize performance-enhancing drugs, while simultaneously lessening the consequences for those players that utilize recreational drugs such as marijuana and opiates.
The NCAA drug testing website currently states, “The NCAA shares the responsibility of promoting a drug-free athletics environment with its member institutions to protect the health of student-athletes and preserve fair competition.”
However, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports is considering changing its policy on recreational drugs by “focus[ing] on educational programs instead of a traditional testing model.” The programs would include intervention and behavioral management programs, as well as “drug testing at the campus level,” though it is not specified how that testing would differ from the testing that the NCAA previously — and currently — is conducting.
“It is our hope the proposed model will address drug deterrence in the most effective way to change behavior,” said Committee Chair and Harvard’s Head Athletic Trainer Brant Berkstresser. “We feel that the NCAA should be focused on drug testing for those substances that may provide an unfair performance advantages.”
Athletes are currently tested for performance-enhancing drugs at least once a year.
Previously, recreational drug testing has not been shown to be much of a deterrent. The NCAA has been conducting drug tests on its student athletes for both performance-enhancing and recreational drugs since 1986, and in that time, it has not seen an overall decrease in positive drug tests.
In a news release, the committee stated, “Use of recreational drugs should absolutely be discouraged … but because they do not provide a competitive advantage, alternative approaches to testing should be developed.”
The release also said that those who are penalized for recreational drug use by losing their eligibility to play are more likely to drop out of school; however, allowing athletes to skirt the consequences of their actions provides another, perhaps unintended, lesson to those students.
photo credit: source via photopin (license)
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace
As states consider passing laws that allow for legal marijuana usage — and in the few states in which pot is already legal — some confusion may crop up for employers. There may be questions like, if the state allows for legal usage of the drug, are you as an employer still allowed to enforce a no-tolerance drug policy? Do your employees have rights when it comes to using cannabis — or being under the influence — in the workplace?
Because the law varies from state to state, the answers can be confusing at best. In fact, Colorado has formed a state Drug Oversight Committee to help answer questions such as these. Here are some of the Committee’s recommendations, as well as items to consider for your particular state.
1) Find out what your rights are as an employer. Colorado still allows employers to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies, and does not require employers to accommodate those who use marijuana legally. Employers may fire employees after a first failed drug test, even if the only thing the employee tests positive for is THC. The Committee states that most Colorado employers should not have to change their drug policies at all.
2) Make sure your policies are in writing, are filed with your human resources department, and are available to employees. Employees should know the rules of the company, what the policies are for drug testing (whether random, only after accidents, upon hiring, etc.) and what the consequences are if one fails a drug test. These policies should be distributed to employees upon hiring, and/or should be included in employee handbooks or on a computer network where employees can view it.
3) Keep up-to-date on legalization efforts, laws and bans in your state. Some states have laws regarding zero-tolerance drug policies, and instead require employees who test positive for drugs to be offered a chance to enter a rehab program for a first infraction, rather than immediate termination. Make sure your HR department keeps an eye on both your city and state legislative bodies, so you’ll understand the law as it applies to your business. Then, if there are any changes to the law, its enforcement, or users’ rights, you’ll be able to update your policies accordingly.
4) If you update your policies, make sure your employees know what changes have been made. This is just a good HR practice. It’s not fair to employees to change the standards of the company without informing them that expectations have changed. Plus, it may reduce the risk of litigation against the company in the future.
What tips would you add to this list?
Photo source: flickr
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