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July 10, 2018
September 22, 2017

An Epic Fail in Employee Drug Screening – Now What?

Sheila Grosdidier

Congratulations! You set up a drug free workplace policy, the attorney has reviewed and approved the process, and training is complete. Now here you stand - an employee just tested positive on the controlled substance screen. What’s a manager to do?

(Here’s the disclaimer – States vary dramatically on their rules and regulations in this area, be sure to check for any restrictions. A very helpful guide of laws governing drug testing can be found at and ) 

As a veterinary practice, the expectation is to meet the state specific laws and, when applicable, federal regulations. These laws often dictate the types of testing, both pre-employment and random screening, that can be done on saliva, hair or urine of an employee. 

Consider these points when handling a positive drug screen of an employee:

  1. Review your policy to assure you are clear how a positive drug screen was intended to be handled when the policy was created (and approved by legal counsel).

  2. Review how this situation has been handled in the past. The expectation by your team and by regulatory agencies is that employees will be treated in a consistent manner. If there has been no prior experience or perhaps you didn’t have a policy, keep in mind that you are setting a precedent with how you handle this situation and be aware of its impact on the future situations.

  3. Have you trained your team leaders in how to determine impairment behavior? Questionable activity should be well documented when a positive drug screen occurs and you will be in a better position to identify impairment.

  4. In the case of prescription medications or medicinal marijuana, a positive test will not be a simple decision, you will need the counsel of an attorney and a health care professional to determine what course of action will be the best way to proceed. These laws are constantly changing and mandate very close coordination with legal and medical counsel to make good decisions.

  5. The refusal of a test under ‘just cause’ conditions is handled as a positive test result only if the policy also identifies that this is how the situation will be handled.

  6. An employee who is taking a prescription/non-prescription medication that could influence their performance, safety or ability to do their job should have advised their supervisor of this situation.

  7. Determine if this positive drug screen is the result of a lawful medication usage and if special American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) considerations could be relevant to this situation.

Overall, the goal of any drug free workplace is to avoid having positive drug screen results in employees. Communication, consistency and consideration are all essential to assure that policies are adhered to, patients are protected and the practice is protected from risk.

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