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Addressing significant drug use at work correlated to the pandemic

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Mental health is, unfortunately, a growing side-effect of the pandemic. At a recent human resources conference, OraSure Technologies presented a multitude of data that heightened the need to mitigate the increase in drug and alcohol use during work hours. A few highlights of the data presented include:

    • 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Positive random drug tests increased by over 200% for opioid and amphetamine use from 2019 to 2020.
    • A 20% increase in positive random drug tests for marijuana use for the same period.
    • A 2020 alcohol consumption survey revealed a general consumption increase of 14%, and heavy drinking had increased by 18.8%.

To ensure a continuous healthy workplace safety culture, whether your employees work remotely or at your place of business, experts at the conference recommended that businesses should have a drug test policy in place with the following components:

    • A clear statement that drug use in the workplace will not be tolerated.
    • A clear statement that employees may not be at work while under the influence of drugs, including legal substances like marijuana or alcohol.
    • Depending on local and state laws, job applicants who test positive may not be hired.

In Washington State, employers’ right to root out marijuana use at work is supported by case law:

    • Medical marijuana permitted – Nothing in the law requires accommodations of onsite medical marijuana use at the workplace. (Swaw v. Safeway Beverage Plant et al.)
    • Recreational marijuana permitted – Initiative 502 does NOT speak to or regulate marijuana in the workplace or drug testing. Roe v. Teletech Customer Care Management Colorado LLC

Three other important considerations related to workplace drug tests:

    • In general, oral fluid testing is recommended because it is less invasive than other types of testing methods. Remote oral fluid testing is now available to address the growing alcohol or substance use among remote workers.
    • Consult your employment attorney to develop the drug test policy to best suit the needs of your business and comply with applicable laws.
    • Engage a third party to conduct the drug test, especially to adopt a non-biased random drug test policy, is as important as the drug policy itself.

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