Drugs and the Workplace: Testing, Workers’ Compensation, and Recovery Assistance

As a company’s human resources representative, a lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders when it comes to the general well-being of employees. You’re responsible for creating initiatives to help employees thrive, as well as protecting them from falling victim to any injuries that could occur in the workplace while on the job.

One of the main preventative measures that HR reps take to avoid putting the company and its employees at risk is requiring drug testing for anyone who joins the team. This can help ensure that everyone who becomes a part of the work team doesn’t participate in risky behaviors in their private life and doesn’t have a problem being sober during work hours.

However, there are many aspects and scenarios regarding drugs in the workplace that HR reps must be ready to handle: drug testing, workers’ compensation issues, and addiction recovery assistance.

Drug Screening

Drug screening is an important part of the hiring process because of how interruptive drugs can be in a workplace environment. Through drug testing, employers can mitigate the risks that come with hiring certain candidates that may not be stable enough to perform the job they’re applying for. Similarly, using a background check service can help you make sure that the person you’re hiring is legally compliant and who they say they are.

By drug screening applicants at your company, you can help decrease employee turnover and absenteeism, as people who get involved in drugs may often be unable to attend work. They may also eventually become too ill and distracted to keep their jobs. Whether the position you’re hiring for is an office job or one that requires physical labor, ensuring that whoever you hire is not a habitual drug user will increase safety in the workplace.

It will also improve the safety of those tested, especially if an individual’s duty involves driving or working with heavy machinery, and doubly so if the drug in question is highly addictive and debilitating. Methamphetamine, for example, can be an extremely damaging substance that can form an addiction that is difficult to recover from. If a drug test detects the presence of a substance like this, it may spur the individual to seek recovery (more on this later).

Drug screening helps to reduce an employer’s risk in the workplace by lowering workers’ compensation incidence rates and workplace accidents. However, just because someone’s drug test comes back clean once doesn’t mean they won’t ever use drugs in the workplace. This is why it may be a good idea (and possibly legally mandatory, depending on your state) to test employees regularly, especially if their job involves driving or operating heavy machinery.

Worker’s Compensation

Accidents and injuries should not be occurring in the workplace if employees are abiding by set safety regulations. When an accident or injury occurs, it’s often a sign that something went wrong — or that someone was distracted and not doing their job. Although accidents can occur even when everyone follows all the rules, requiring drug testing after workplace injuries is a common policy simply to cover the company’s bases.

If your company has a zero-tolerance policy in regards to drug use, and you discover that the person was injured as a result of the effects of drugs or alcohol use during work hours, the company may not be responsible for the injury. The company would not be liable for paying workers’ compensation for an injury that was not their fault. Although employers should be willing to compensate employees when something goes wrong, an employee under the influence at work isn’t doing their job, and they’re even putting their other coworkers at risk.

Recovery Assistance

However, it’s important to remember that addiction is a public health issue, sometimes even leading to overdoses in the workplace. If your workplace doesn’t involve physical labor, driving or regular drug testing, there are often still occasions when an employee may be discovered or come forward about struggling with addiction and say that they will be undergoing substance abuse treatment. Under these circumstances, the HR representative will need to ensure they comply with federal laws regarding substance abuse in the workplace.

One of the most common laws used under these circumstances is the Family and Medical Care Leave Act, which protects an employee’s position at work if they are seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction problem. This law applies to all public agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees. It protects employees who have been at a company for over one year and permits them to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to deal with substance use disorders. A good employer should be supportive and offer resources for recovery.

The treatment plan for those struggling with addiction may involve prescription drugs, and it’s important to understand the implications of some of these medications. For instance, those suffering from opioid addiction may be prescribed Suboxone, an oral film that is used to reduce opioid misuse. However, because this drug has some opioid effects, it may show up on certain drug tests. Therefore, a subsequent positive drug test may not indicate that an employee is failing to comply with their addiction treatment program. Considerations like this are important to keep in mind while helping an employee through this troubling time.

Drugs in the workplace can be a stressful situation for HR reps to deal with, but it should be one that you feel ready to handle at all times because it is a prevalent issue. Drug screening as part of the hiring process can help ensure that the workplace environment is safe and conducive to productivity from the very beginning. Drug screening after injuries is a standard procedure to prevent more accidents from occurring.

However, sometimes dedicated employees will find themselves in a difficult situation regarding substance abuse, and it’s important to give them support and help them get back on their feet. Whatever the situation is, it must be handled with delicacy and respect to ensure that the company is being fair to their employees and abiding by federal workplace laws.