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What Is Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing?

reasonable suspicion drug testing

Businesses are responsible for maintaining a safe and drug-free workplace. Preserving a drug-free workplace means employers must have policies that allow them to test employees for drug use. The tricky part is determining when reasonable suspicion drug testing is appropriate. So, what is this form of testing, and when are you likely to need it in your workplace?

Defining Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

Reasonable suspicion drug testing is a form of workplace drug testing that requires rational grounds before testing an employee. It results from plausible suspicion that the employee has been using or is under the influence of drugs.

There must be reasonable grounds to believe that the employee is impaired and poses a hazard to themselves, others, or property before this type of test may be conducted. For instance, an employee who appears to be under the influence of drugs, has dilated pupils, or is exhibiting impaired judgment may warrant reasonable suspicion drug testing.

Why Is Workplace Drug Testing Important?

Workplace drug testing is crucial for several reasons. It enables employers to maintain a safe and productive work environment and comply with legal requirements. Drug use can lead to impaired judgment, decreased productivity, and even accidents and injuries in the workplace. So to keep your organization running smoothly and without incident, it's important to guarantee that your staff is drug-free.

Will Drug Testing Alienate Your Employees?

Drug testing for reasonable suspicion does not have to alienate your employees. Employers must ensure that reasonable suspicion drug tests are conducted with respect for their employees' rights and privacy. This testing type means informing the employee of the grounds and explaining the need for a reasonable suspicion drug test when required.

Furthermore, drug testing in the workplace reassures policy-abiding staff members and sends the message drugs are not tolerated in the office. Additionally, the risk of injury is lowered and ensures workers won’t be under the influence and dangerous to those around them. 

Setting Up a Drug Testing Policy

Before implementing any drug test at work, employers should have reasonable suspicion of drug testing policies and procedures to minimize risk and ensure that the entire process is performed correctly. Outlining these expectations before reasonable suspicion arises can help reduce potential challenges from employees who are uncomfortable with drug testing or who feel like it’s an invasion of their privacy.

Ideally, include drug testing guidance in your onboarding materials for new employees and acquire their signature acknowledging the policies. By including this information from the outset, each employee becomes responsible for following rules, which will help protect you from any backlash around testing.  

How to Document Reasonable Suspicion

Before you enact a reasonable suspicion drug test, be sure to make thorough records to explain your decision-making process. Employers must always document reasonable suspicion that the employee is impaired to justify drug testing. Documentation can include observation reports, statements from colleagues or supervisors, and a detailed description of any incident that caused reasonable suspicion.

The documentation should also describe how long it has been since the reasonable suspicion occurred and whether any tests were used (such as breathalyzer tests) before reasonable suspicion was established. Documentation helps ensure that employers are compliant with their legal requirements and provides clear evidence if they ever face a legal challenge.

Signs an Employee May Be Using Drugs

When it comes to reasonable suspicion drug tests, employers must take time to observe behavior and document any signs that the employee might be abusing drugs. Some common signs include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Unusual behavior
  • Poor performance
  • Changes in work habits
  • Unexplained accidents or injuries
  • Unusual physical appearance

If you're close to your staff, it is possible first to address these behaviors with an honest heart-to-heart. This way, you can check their well-being and mental state without taking extreme measures. But if you cannot rely on their honesty or notice a continued pattern of these signs, reasonable suspicion testing may be required.

What Kind of Drug Test Do You Need?

When it comes to reasonable suspicion drug testing, employers may use either a 5-panel or 10-panel drug test. A 5-panel drug test generally covers the five most commonly abused substances in the workplace, including:

  • marijuana
  • cocaine
  • opiates (codeine and morphine)
  • amphetamine/methamphetamine (ecstasy)
  • phencyclidine (PCP)

A 10-panel drug test typically includes all the substances in the 5-panel, plus:

  • synthetic opiates (oxycodone and hydrocodone)
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • methadone
  • propoxyphene
  • alcohol

If you have reason to believe that an employee may be misusing a substance not covered under either of these tests, you may require additional testing to confirm reasonable suspicion. In this case, continue documenting any additional instances contributing to your suspicion. Without just cause, continued drug testing could be perceived as harassment, so you need evidence to support your decision to test an employee again.

For a broader testing option that covers even more substances than a 10-panel test, there are also options such as 14-panel drug tests that can be used in unusual cases.

Identify Employee Drug Use with Countrywide

Countrywide is committed to helping employers maintain a drug-free workplace. So when it comes to employee drug testing, you can trust Countrywide Testing to have your back. We offer convenient, on-site drug testing kits to help you identify and document when an employee may be using drugs.

Countrywide is an online retailer providing you with easy access to drug tests and pharmacogenetic testing. We offer an array of products for testing at home, individuals staying clean after rehab, workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, and law enforcement purposes. 

Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured that your test results are handled according to the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support your journey toward a safe, drug-free work environment? Just contact our team today.