Can I drug test my employees?

Yes. You can drug test your employees. First make sure a written drug policy is in place which follows all federal, state and local laws and regulations pertaining to workplace drug testing. More here on drug testing employees.

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You can drug test your employees but you should absolutely have a written drug policy in place first and make sure it follows all federal, state and local laws and regulations pertaining to workplace drug testing.  Here, we review legal regulations and costs of drug testing employees. Then, at the end we invite your questions about employee drug testing. If we cannot answer your questions directly, we will refer you to someone who can.

Benefits of drug testing employees

Some of the benefits of drug testing employees include:

  • decreased incidence of injury
  • fewer sick days improved product and service quality
  • increased productivity
  • reduced incidences of damage
  • reduced disappearance of company equipment
  • reduced number of Workers’ Compensation claims
  • stbilized Workers’ Comp and health insurance premiums

Why do I need a written drug testing policy?

While I can’t say for sure that all states require you to have a written policy, some definitely do. Beyond that, though, a written drug testing policy means you have planned and budgeted for this human resources component. A written drug testing policy also means that you know exactly how everything involving drug testing is going to be done in your business. This guide will be a resource for anyone with questions about how drug testing works in your business, and serves as the go-to reference.

Drug testing policies should always be written with the help of legal council. There are many companies that sell drug testing equipment and supplies or that offer drug testing services, and they’ll be able to give you knowledgable advice about drug testing, but these companies aren’t meant to take the place of legal advice from your lawyer. With so many variations in laws from state to state, you may even need more than one lawyer, especiallyif your business operates in multiple places across the country. A lawyer will be able to help you through the obstacle course that is American drug testing laws. (This is only true if you have a competent lawyer, obviously.)

Just how different are drug testing laws from state to state?

I’ll give you an example of how different these drug testing laws can be.

Iowa has implemented the Act to Regulate the Circumstance and Procedure Under Which an Employer May Request a Drug Test of An Employee or an Applicant for Employment. This act allows testing if there is “probable cause to believe that an employee is in a position where such impairment presents a danger to the safety of the employee, another employee, a member of the public, or the property of the employer, or when impairment due to the effects of a controlled substance is a violation of a known rule of the employer.”

Pretty straightforward stuff.

Maine, on the other hand, has implemented The Act Relating to Drug Testing, and it requires organizations with more than 20 employees to establish an employee assistance program and to develop a written drug testing policy before conducting tests. Drug testing must be done in a medical facility and under the supervision of a physician. Furthermore, the employee or job applicant has the right to conduct his or her own test using a separate sample of urine collected at the time of the test. Furthermore, pre-employment drug testing in Maine can only be required once an applicant has been offered employment or a position on an eligibility roster. Employees may be tested if there is probable cause that is stated in writing. Random testing can only be done if it has been agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement or if, “The employee works in a position the nature of which would create an unreasonable threat to the health or safety of the public or the employee’s co-workers if the employee were under the influence of a substance of abuse.”

Slightly less straightforward stuff.

As a quick reference, the National Work Rights Institute lists these states as having adopted laws that limit the circumstances under which employees can be required to submit to drug tests:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

And the following states have adopted legislation that regulates drug testing in some fashion:

  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Utah

And currently, the laws of these following states restrict job applicant testing:

  • Connecticut
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Vermont

That last list of states plus Rhode Island also limit testing of current employees to those actually suspected of using drugs to the detriment of their job performance.

And just to confuse matters further, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Montana limit testing to only employees holding safety-sensitive jobs.

Bottom line; do your homework.

How much does drug testing cost?

If you’re looking for a specific dollar amount, you won’t find it here. There are just too many variables to consider when talking about introducing a drug testing policy to narrow costs down to a concrete dollar figure. For example, the type of drug tests samples that you require will alter the cost of drug testing. Almost all employment drug testing is done by urinalysis but there are other ways of drug testing and choosing what type of tests you will conduct (hair, saliva, urine and instant result vs. lab analysis) will factor into cost.

The size of your company also plays into the cost of implementing a drug testing program. Like any industry, retailers that sell drug testing equipment and services give bulk discounts. If your company conducts 15,000 drug tests annually, the cost per test will be much lower than one that conducts 150. Another variable is whether your workforce is unionized or not. Introducing drug testing in a unionized workplace involves negotiations and agreement from the union.

One major variables for the cost of implementing a drug testing program in your business is whether you decide to follow already established guidelines for drug testing or whether you decide to create your own from scratch, which will allow you more leverage. Many companies use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing guidelines. The advantage of using these guidelines is that they are well established and have been upheld in court so you will be on pretty firm legal standing already by following them. A lot of drug testing centers across the country already follow them, too. These guidelines include having a Medical Review Officer (MRO) evaluate tests, they identify the five substances (amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine) that are tested for in federal drug-testing programs and they require the use of drug labs certified by SAMHSA.

Variables that affect the cost of emloyment drug testing including:

  1. size of your company
  2. type of drug testing standard you choose
  3. unionized workforce, or not
  4. whether you follow established guidelines, or not

Great, but is it worth it?

The short answer here is; yes!

It may take a lot of work, but the payoff of a drug-free workplace will likely be worth it in the end.

Good luck with it.

About the author
Lena Butler is a mom, health blogger and customer service representative for TestCountry. TestCountry is a San Diego based point of service diagnostic test service provider that offers a wide range of laboratory and instant testing kit solutions including drug tests, metal toxicity, DNA paternity, food and water tests and hundreds more. TestCountry's tests are easy to use and can be performed at your home or workplace.
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