Developing a Drug Free Workplace Policy

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder and Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | December 20, 2015

Statistically, whether or not you know it, your establishment may be among the many workplaces affected by substance abuse. Consider that 70% of an estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed, according to the National on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. This would approximate ten percent of the approximately 149 million persons who were employed the U.S. as of October 2015, and twelve percent of those 122 million persons employed full time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Developing a drug abuse policy is an important step in protecting your establishment, employees and guests against the costs of substance abuse.

There are several resources available for developing a drug free workplace policy. In addition to resources provided by state agencies, non-profits and businesses, the U.S. Department of Labor ( “DOL” ) provides a Drug Free Workplace Advisor via its website at: DOL guidance advises that an employer’s drug free workplace policy should seek to achieve two goals: 1 ) to clearly communicate that use of alcohol and drugs in the workplace is prohibited; and 2 ) to encourage employees who have a drug or alcohol substance abuse problem to voluntary seek help.

Mandatory Drug Free Workplace Policies

In some instances, employers may be required under state or federal law to establish a drug free workplace. Establishments should consult with legal counsel as to whether such local, state or federal laws may apply. The federal Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires federal contractors for goods or services of $100, 000 or more, and all federal grantees, to establish a drug free workplace. Additionally, individuals who receive a contract or grant must agree not to engage in the unlawful manufacture, distribution, possession or use of a controlled substance in the performance of their federal contract.

Components of a Written Drug Free Workplace Policy

An effective policy begins with a written statement by the employer setting forth the reasons for developing its drug free workplace policy. Employers should explain to employees the benefits they derive from a workplace that is free from the dangers and risks of drug use. The policy should address employer expectations of employees and specify drug use which is prohibited. This would include addressing the consequences of failing to submit to a drug test and violation of the drug free workplace policies including disciplinary action and termination.

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