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Why it's done? 

How it's done?

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What is the most common reason for drug testing?


Pre-employment drug screening makes up the majority of tests conducted. Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to keep the workplace as healthy as possible for their employees, vendors, and customers. Other reasons include personal use, family agreements, court-ordered random testing, DOT-regulated employees who are randomly tested yearly or semi-yearly, diversion or probationary programs, non-DOT safety-sensitive job functions where random testing is required by the employer, DOT return-to-duty (after having been suspended for drug use), probable cause/reasonable suspicion that an employee may be under the influence while on the job, and more.




Is drug use really that much of an issue for employers?


Absolutely! It's estimated that 70% of the 14.8M illegal drug users 18 years and older are employed full-time in the workforce. This is not insignificant. Employees who abuse drugs can cause:

  • 3½x higher chance of injury;
  • 3-5x more worker's comp claims;
  • higher individual medical costs... almost 300%;
  • low productivity/job performance;
  • adverse affect on overall workplace morale;
  • 2½-5x more likely to miss work or take unscheduled leave;
  • legal troubles or business problems from poor judgment or mistakes on the job;
  • increase costs due to higher employee turnover since drug abusers are less likely to stay on the job - less than 1 year;
  • decrease service quality/product quality;
  • damage to the business reputation through misbehavior, poor decision making, and poor product quality;
  • accounts for 40% of workplace theft.
...to name a few. Since these issues result in costs upwards of $140 billion dollars each year, more and more employers are implementing drug screening into their standard business practices. Each abuser can cost an employer $7-$10K per year... Additionally, insurance companies may give discounts on benefit programs. Currently, at least 30 states have laws in place that will disqualify employees from getting unemployment compensation if it's found that the employee is violating the workplace drug policies. It is a positive return on the investment in screening, by far, and encourages personal responsibility; promotes and offers better alternatives to dealing with work pressures; a safer, healthier workforce and workplace; and, serves to possibly deter those who would otherwise be tempted.




Can I be forced to take a pre-employment drug test?


If you are applying for a non-federal, non-regulated position, no one can actually force you to submit to a drug test prior to your getting the job; HOWEVER, if it is a precondition to being offered the position or one of the requirements for the job is that you test clean, then not testing is basically saying you don't want the job, so don't apply. Makes sense. In California, employers have the right to require that you submit to and pass a drug test prior to being officially offered or starting the job, known as a "conditional offer." Most state laws have rules surrounding the implementation of a drug pre-screening program, including making sure it's posted in the job availability notices, using the same licensed lab for all tests, testing each employee for a particular position equally (for the same set of drugs), and so on. Non-regulated companies are not required to do pre-employment screening, but an increasing majority are joinging the ranks.




What about states that have legalized marijuana for personal or medicinal use?


Federal guidelines do not allow regulated employees (such as those in safety-sensitive positions such as truck drivers or pilots, or those in the military) to use marijuana regardless of the individual having a valid prescription under a particular state law. This is known as "zero tolerance." DOT-regulated jobs and other safety-sensitive positions still have a zero-tolerance policy toward any type of mind-altering substance, and rightfully so - since the potential for injury, lost work time, decreased productivity, etc., are present regardless of the user's opinion about their performance while under the influence. Other companies and operations have more relaxed testing requirements; though they may not refuse to employ a marijuana user, it may be position-dependent. For instance, it may not be a good idea for this particular employee to operate machinery in a factory. Other companies have eliminated screening for THC altogether since it greatly decreases their potential workpool, choosing to still test for other illegal drugs of abuse, and many employers state that they are not concerned about an employee's recreational activities. It is best to check with a company's stance prior to setting your sites on a particular job. You may - or may not - be happily surprised.




Can they test me if I have a medical marijuana card?


It depends on the state, but California currently has no employee protection for a medical marijuana cardholder who uses outside of the workplace and outside of work hours. With various provisions changing rapidly, it is best to do your due diligence and get accurate information about the law and your company policy.




Isn't employer drug testing an invasion of my privacy? My rights?


California's state Constitution is one of the few that incorporates a right to privacy. That right extends to both government and private sector employees. There are those that will argue that this right to privacy is implicated by the drug screening process, but doesn't necessarily mean drug testing is illegal. The fairness of the process is based the employer’s reasons for testing against the reasonable, expected privacy of the employee or applicant. An employer can limit the expected right to privacy based on a well-written, clear presentation of their drug testing policy and procedure which is presented to all employees upon hire. All this being said, the Supreme Court ruled that drug testing may be necessary to protect the health and safety of others. On another note, if a supervisor suspects an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job, testing can be done if these "reasonable suspicions" are based on objective observations. These concerns include the possible contribution to an onsite accident, slurred speech or incoherent conversation, abnormal conduct, direct observation of drug use or sale, erratic behavior, etc. Most supervisors are trained in this area. It is legal in most states to allow testing of an employee following a workplace accident. Since the employer could be liable for costs involved, then it is reasonable to find out if the employee's involvement was the result of prohibited conduct.
Additionally, there are studies showing that random alcohol testing has effectively reduced the incidence of fatalities in the transportation industry.




Can my employer conduct random drug testing?


In some states, companies cannot conduct blanket drug tests of all employees or random drug tests. However, a vast majority of non-regulated employers can. With almost 4.5% of employees who randomly test actually tested positive, it's good practice. Drug abusers can be masters at hiding their use, and with the increased availability and potency of drugs today, making sure workers are operating safely is a priority. And many organizations have implemented recovery programs to assist their employees who have a drug dependency. Federal guidelines are in place to ensure accuracy and fairness in drug-testing programs.




What are the current statistical trends in drug use?


  • One study has shown that 60% of illicit drug use is in the U.S., though the U.S. only accounts for about 4.5% of the world's population.
  • Over 70% of drug abusers are employed.




Does the Federal Government mandate drug testing?


Yes, but only for certain safety-sensitive areas, which are determined by the job tasks, not the job title. Federally-mandated drug testing includes truck drivers (FMCSA), pilots (FAA), railroad workers and operators (FRA), maritime workers (USCG), pipeline workers (PHMSA), transit workers (FTA), and those in the military. There are state regulations (which vary by state) that cover safety-sensitive jobs, including healthcare and education. DOT agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard write industry specific regulations, spelling out who is subject to testing, when and in what situations. Industry employers implement the regulations that apply to them. HOWEVER... Federal law does permit employers to test for drugs during workplace or work-related accident investigations. Though state laws will vary, in most states it is legal to test employees for drugs following an accident in the workplace




Are these results kept confidential?


Absolutely!




Can students in schools be tested?


In 2002, the US Supreme Court ruled that students could be tested, and allowed for an expanded scope beyond those who participate in extracurricular activities. The Washington Post reported that drug testing in schools is increasing in popularity, in summary, for the following:

  • To qualify for participation in sports and other extracurricular activities
  • To check for the use of steroids or other drugs that can enhance athletic performance
  • To test students who are on probation
  • To ensure sobriety in student drivers
  • To reduce substance abuse and drug-related crime through random screening
  • To test students who are behaving erratically or is incoherent
The goal? Since, young, developing brains are especially succeptable to the effects of drugs, the hope is to get these young people help before a potential problem causes long-term issues, and to deter those who would want to experiment.




How reliable are lab-based drug tests?


Oris Exam Services utilizes only SAMHSA Certified Laboratories, and the accuracy from a certified lab is very, very high. Most labs use enzyme immunoassay screening, then liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for confirmation of a presumptive-positive result. Confirmation tests can help to rule out any false-positive results. Normally the samples are divided: if the initial test is "non-negative" for a particular substance, a confirmation test can then be conducted on the remaining sample. Remember, these tests for a particular drug or its metabolites are reported on the nanogram level. In other words? The science, well, rocks. And the testing continues to become more specific and more sensitive with advances in technology.




What if I have a prescription from a doctor?


Many employers or drug testing administrators have an MRO, or Medical Review Officer. In the case of DOT or federally-regulated companies, all have an MRO. The MRO receives the drug test results. It is the MRO's job to balance the organization's liability with the test subject's privacy. They are part of the testing process there to oversee its integrity. If the employee tests positive for a substance. the MRO will contact the employee. The employee should be able to provide a verifiable prescription. Even with a prescription, however, depending upon the job duties, the MRO can report a "safety concern." Ultimately, a particular decision will be based on whether or not the employee can still perform the duties of the job.




On the internet, I see all kinds of ways to beat these drug tests...


Unfortunately (or fortunately?), a vast majority of these schemes and devices won't work considering the advances in testing technology. The same items you find on the internet or in smoke shops are also known by the laboratories, and they are way ahead of the game. Three main methods include: adulteration, dilution, and substitution, and laboratory results will identify these categories as Adulterated, Substituted or Invalid.

  1. Adulterants - Labs can detect substances added to a sample in order to chemically alter or mask a drug, these additives are known as "adulterants." Attempting to use eye drops, vinegar, bleach, or an internet "miracle," etc. will not work. The testing is extraordinarily sophisticated, and these masking substances can be detected (such as nitrates found in "cleansers") and removed in order to test the sample.
  2. Dilution - Even trying to "flush" by drinking water to the point that your urine is clear could result in having to retest as the sample may be too dilute (and is often a suspicious attempt to delay testing).
  3. Substitution - Synthetic urine can be detected by SVT, or "specimen validity testing." Both lab and instant tests can determine if the sample is actually human urine. In the case of replacing the testor's urine with a friend or family member's sample, collectors are trained to listen for clues, and measure the temperature of the specimen to make sure the sample came directly from the body.
Specimen validity testing can incorporate markers for pH, creatinine, specific gravity, oxidase, and nitrates. Note also that attempts to cheat the test may backfire if an employer. program, or school conducts random drug testing, and if cheating is discovered - is akin to testing positive. One of the latest methods available to thwart cheating? A DNA-authentication match of a cheek swab to the urine sample; no chance of substitution using this test type!




Is it actually illegal to cheat a drug test?


In some states, attempting to cheat a drug test is illegal, and may involve a fine, jail time, or both. Texas was the first to pass such a law, followed by South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Oregon, North Dakota, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming. Also, many states are enacting legislation to make it illegal to sell or use synthetic urine.





Drug Testing (generally speaking)

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