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by Mike McCurdy
GEA Executive Director

Georgia Employers’ Association receives numerous questions from members each week. Many are straightforward. They involve confirmations of a decision or clarification or a law or regulation. Occasionally, though, we receive an inquiry that gets more complex.

A Drug Screening Conundrum

Last week, one of our members called to ask about sending an employee to be drug screened for cause. This kind of question can arise when an employee is under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. It’s a situation that requires investigation and documentation.

HR may witness the employee’s behavior, but frequently an incident or situation has occurred in the plant or elsewhere on the premises. It’s important to identify all witnesses and ask them to document what they have seen. Their accounts should be recorded in writing and they should date and sign their statements.

The next question involves how the screening should take place. One procedure would be for the company to use on-site testing kits to conduct the initial screens. If the initial screen is positive, then the sample should be sent to a third party lab for confirmation. The employee would be suspended until the outside results are received.

Chuck Wade, State Director of Drugs Don’t Work in GA, advises against in-house testing for reasonable suspicion of drug use and adds that state certified drug free workplaces in Georgia are not permitted to use on-site options for this kind of incident. On-site tests may only be used for pre-employment testing, “blanket” testing, or random testing. Under the state certification program, drug tests for reasonable suspicion, post-treatment, or fitness for duty must be conducted at a lab.

A better option is to take the employee to the ER or a pre-determined medical facility for testing. Frequently this will be done by a supervisor, but many companies also use security or safety personnel. If there is no other way to transport the employee for testing, then the company should pay for a cab or an Uber for transportation.

It’s possible that the employee may object or even become hostile in response to the process. He or she should be warned that authorities will be called if their behavior becomes dangerous to themselves or others.

Even if an employee is obviously intoxicated, companies can incur significant liability if they don’t have an established policy for drug screening. The policy should document the kinds of occurrences that can initiate drug screening and the process that will be followed. It should be presented to employees during new hire orientation and be posted on information areas or the company portal.

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