3 Signs that Establish Reasonable Suspicion for Drug Testing
You did your homework and wrote a comprehensive best drug testing protocol any company would be lucky to have. It consists of various types of drug testing (and how to stay DOT compliant), including pre-employment, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion. Unlike straightforward types of drug tests, you may be left wondering what exactly qualifies as reasonable suspicion for drug testing.
Sometimes, suspicion may feel like judgment or bias — two words that are almost sure to cause an HR nightmare. That’s why it’s critical to know what constitutes reasonable suspicion for drug testing and what to do when you identify it.
What Qualifies as Reasonable Suspicion for Drug Testing
Caught between a commitment to ensuring safety (one of the main reasons employers choose to drug test) and a desire to remain HR-compliant, it can be difficult to pinpoint suspicions about workforce drug use. The key to establishing reasonable suspicion for drug testing is objectivity.
Luckily, the Society for Human Resource Management has defined three categories of observable behavior to help identify employees who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work.
1. Physical Signs
When you know what to look for, noting physical signs of potential drug use is not passing judgment. It ensures the safety of all employees and can lead to prompt treatment for the employee in question.
Plus, recognizing physical symptoms consistent with drug and alcohol use can help you establish reasonable suspicion for drug testing sooner rather than later.
Get to know your employees’ usual physical presentation and look for changes that include:
- Bloodshot eyes/dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Unsteady walk/uncoordinated movements
- Shakes or tremors
- Unexplained sweating or shivering
- Fidgeting/inability to sit still
- Sleeping at work or difficulty staying awake
- Unusual body or breath odor
- Deterioration in appearance/grooming
2. Behavioral Signs
In addition to physical signs, employees under the influence may display behavioral indicators of drug use. Again, knowing your employees’ baselines can be helpful in identifying changes related to:
- Attendance problems — tardiness, a pattern of absences or excessive absenteeism
- Decline in performance/productivity
- Acting withdrawn from others, secretive
- Money problems or borrowing or stealing money
3. Psychological Signs
Unfortunately, you can’t get inside the minds of your employees, but you can watch for changes in how they present their thoughts. Common psychological signs that qualify as reasonable suspicion include:
- Unexplained changes in personality or attitude
- Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or inappropriate laughing
- Unexplained fear or paranoia
- Inability to focus or concentrate
While it’s important to keep an eye out for all of the above signs, there is another piece to the puzzle. You’ve got to know what to do when you suspect employee drug use!
Best Practices for Establishing Reasonable Suspicion for Drug Testing
When it comes down to conducting reasonable suspicion drug testing, doubt and concern can take over. It’s more complicated than weighing the decision to conduct pre-employment drug testing or even whether or not to include marijuana in your drug testing policy.
To ensure your grounds for reasonable suspicion are entirely objective, follow these protocols.
1. Define a Comprehensive Drug Testing Protocol
If reasonable suspicion (aka “probable-cause” or “for-cause”) drug testing isn’t already in your company’s drug testing protocol, it needs to be. A comprehensive drug testing protocol keeps employees safe and healthy, minimizes accidents, and increases productivity. Now’s also a good time to consider a commonly overlooked aspect of corporate drug testing: whether to drug test onsite.
If you make changes to your company’s protocol, be sure to notify employees and ensure they understand the policy. All employees should understand that they are subject to reasonable suspicion drug testing, including new hires.
2. Train Personnel to Recognize Signs of Drug Use
At a minimum, managers and HR personnel should understand what they can do about workforce drug use. Training should convey how to identify potential drug use and what to do if they see it. You may also consider holding a company-wide training to educate employees on the signs of drug and alcohol use. Such an approach should empower employees to (anonymously) report coworkers they suspect of being under the influence.
3. Document Complaints
It can be tough for managers and members of the HR team to catch signs of drug use. Accept complaints from employees, vendors, and clients, taking time to document their concerns. Be sure to ask:
- What the person observed
- When it was observed (and if others witnessed or commented on the situation)
- If the behavior has been observed in the past
All reports should be documented and followed up on by a manager or HR.
4. Record Firsthand Observations
As soon as a complaint is registered, the employee in question should be observed by management. Observation of the above signs can be made from afar, though managers should generally speak directly to the employee. When in close proximity, the observer should look closely for the above signs, documenting any indication of substance use.
5. Meet with the Employee
If the employee is working in a safety-sensitive area, such as around machinery, remove them.
Regardless of the circumstances, management and HR should meet with the employee to share what they’ve observed, explain how reasonable suspicion for drug testing is established, and define next steps. (Hint: an employee suspected of being under the influence should not drive themselves to a reasonable suspicion drug test. That only increases the company’s liability, yet another reason to drug test onsite).
At the end of the day, reasonable suspicion drug testing exists for the safety of employees and everyone they interact with. In fact, a comprehensive drug testing policy can reduce employee absences, accidents, and turnover, while increasing efficiency and productivity.
For onsite drug testing or assistance writing your policy, give us a call!