Marijuana Legalization and What it Means for Employers

Marijuana Legalization and What it Means for Employers

Posted by CDT2018 | 7 April 2018
Marijuana Testing | Comprehensive Drug Testing

A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that 1 in 8 American adults count themselves as current marijuana users. According to the federal government, the number of employed drug users rose from 8.28 million in 2013 to 8.98 million in 2014. With the continued rising popularity of marijuana as a “safe” drug, many of these substance-abusing employees undoubtedly use marijuana.

Potential consequences of marijuana use in the workplace include but are not limited to:

  • Inconsistent work quality
  • Poor concentration/lack of focus
  • Lowered productivity, erratic focus, or both
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Unexplained job site disappearances
  • Carelessness, mistakes, or errors in judgment
  • Needless risk taking
  • Disregard for safety
  • On-the-job and off-the-job accidents or incidents
  • Extended lunch periods and early departures
  • Increased driver accidents

It may seem obvious why someone impaired by marijuana should not operate a forklift, jackhammer, or perform other traditional “safety-sensitive” job functions, but employers may not immediately realize the danger when “ordinary” employees are impaired by marijuana. Physicians may misdiagnose patients, sales reps may cause an accident when driving between appointments, a secretary might accidentally leak files containing important information, etc. Any workplace can become unsafe when its employees are impaired by marijuana, even those that are not traditionally considered safety-sensitive, not federally regulated, or both.

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, as many as 50% of all workers’ compensation claims are related to the abuse of alcohol or drugs in the workplace. Drug users, as a whole, use medical benefits at a rate eight times higher than non-users. Additionally, substance abusing employees are absent from work more often than their non-substance abusing co-workers, often resulting in increased workloads for co-workers and decreased employee morale.

As the drive to legalize marijuana continues, employers will be faced with increased workplace costs due to the safety-concerns and lost wages associated with impaired employees. With laws currently proposed that would severely limit or even prohibit employers from testing for THC, employers should be concerned about the continued right to maintain a safe and productive workplace.

The Importance of a Good Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy

The Importance of a Good Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy

Posted by CDT2018 | 7 April 2018
Workplace drug and alcohol test | Comprehensive Drug Testing

It’s becoming more common for employees to take employers to court over their drug-free workplace programs. With the rise recreational and medicinal marijuana legalization, it’s more important than ever for employers to have a good drug and alcohol testing policy in place to ensure that if a court case arises, the employer is protected.

What makes a good policy? A defined purpose, regular review, and the inclusion of a variety of testing methods. Companies can easily make the mistake of assuming that policies are “one size fits all” and not update their policy regularly or tailor it to their location. Employers need to be aware of applicable state laws, departmental regulations, workers’ compensation laws, unemployment compensation laws, medical and/or recreational marijuana laws, federal regulations, and case laws. Good policy takes all of these into account, in addition to implementing regular updates in order to ensure compliance.

A written policy serves as the blueprint as to how your company will achieve its vision of a drug-free workplace. Critical components such as drug testing, alcohol screening, employee education, and employee assistance services help employees understand the comprehensive nature of the company’s approach to keeping their work environment safe.

A good policy sends a clear message to employees and job applicants that your company does not tolerate substance abuse. With a written policy in place, communicating its purpose to all concerned, no employee can come back later and say “I didn’t know” in response to a positive drug test.

With a policy that adheres to all applicable state laws and federal regulations, in combination with consistent and regular enforcement and updates, employers have a ready-made shield against legal liability that protects them. While acting in good faith, this shield safeguards them when a company takes legally permitted adverse employment action with employees that choose to violate the policy.

A written policy communicates to employees and job applicants the company’s position on all the critical issues. Additionally, regular updates ensure compliance with the myriad of ever-changing state laws and federal regulations, in addition to strengthening an employer’s ability to provide a safe and secure working environment for employees and the general public.

DOT/HHS Updates

DOT/HHS Updates

Posted by CDT2018 | 7 April 2018
DOT drug testing | Comprehensive Drug Testing

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently published updates to 49 CFR Part 40 (Part 40) that went into effect on 1 January 2018. The DOT updates were published in direct response to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) revised mandatory guidelines for federal workplace drug testing programs that went into effect in 2017. Although the DHHS and DOT often work in tandem and have aligned their testing guidelines on the following matters, they are not the same entity.

Updates to the DOT drug testing panel included the addition of four new drugs. Hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone have been added to the panel as new semi-synthetics. MDEA was removed for confirmatory testing and MDA is now an initial test analyte. Additionally, drug panel language has been changed from “opiates” to “opioids” to accommodate the additional semi-synthetic opioids.

Blind specimen requirements for DOT-regulated programs are no longer in place. HHS-certified laboratories are still required to submit to proficiency testing. However, third party administrators are no longer required to submit blind specimens on behalf of their clients.

MROs are now allowed, at their discretion, to authorize testing for THC-V in addition to D, L stereoisomers of amphetamine and methamphetamine. Re-training every five years is still required. MROs must ensure that a prescription is legally valid, and medical marijuana is not to be accepted as a valid prescription. Additionally, the MRO process for reporting medical information has also been updated.

Three fatal flaws were added to Part 40 in addition to the four pre-existing fatal flaws. They are as follows:
1. There is no CCF.
2. Two separate collections were performed using one CCF.
3. There was no specimen submitted to the laboratory with the CCF, but there was a specimen actually collected.

The updates to Part 40 also clarify that only urine specimens screened and confirmed at HHS-certified laboratories are permitted. DNA testing of the urine specimen is not authorized. Additionally, MRO’s Substance Abuse Professionals, Blood Alcohol Technicians, collectors, and Screening Test Technicians must keep current on any changes to Part 40 by subscribing to the DOT list-serve.

The updates to Part 40 align the DOT testing requirements with those put in place by the DHHS in mid-2017. The changes allow for reduced dependence and addiction in the workplace as well as added safety benefits.

Prescription Drugs in the Workplace

Prescription Drugs in the Workplace

Posted by CDT2018 | 20 March 2018
Opioid Testing | Comprehensive Drug Testing

Many employees consider a medical prescription “safe”. However, even employees who use certain medical prescriptions following a doctor’s advice, can be impacted in an unsafe way, affecting their job performance and safety to the point where the employee becomes unfit for duty. The National Safety Council (NSC) recently noted that 23% of the U.S. workforce has used prescription drugs non-medically and that in many cases, even those employees who take a “regular” dose may be too impaired to work . According to the NSC:

• Injured workers prescribed even one opioid have average total insurance claim costs four times greater than similar claims from workers not on prescription opioids.
• Workers that receive more than a one-week supply of opioids following an injury have double the risk of disability after a year.
• Courts have found employers and workers’ compensation insurers financially responsible when an injured worker with prescription painkillers fatally overdoses.

Many employers wrongly assume that the standard 5-panel drug test will detect both prescribed and abused prescription drugs. However, many abused narcotics (e.g. fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, etc.) are not tested for unless an employer adds the expanded opiates panel. Additionally, a standard medical review process cannot identify the misuse of prescription drugs if the employee has a valid prescription. This means a drug abuser need only have one valid prescription and, in theory, the Medical Review Officer could reverse a positive drug test and report the result as negative to an employer. Policies should focus on prescription drug use, regardless of whether the drug use is pursuant to doctor guidelines or not.

Over two million Americans are estimated to have a problem with opioids. In 2015 alone, 97 million people took prescription painkillers, of those, 12 million did so without being directed to do so by a doctor . Employees who abuse prescription drugs are more likely to miss work, use pain relievers on the job, return a positive drug test, have poor work performance, and negatively impact employee morale than their non-abusing counterparts . 71% of U.S. employers have been impacted by employee prescription drug use . By having an up-to-date and comprehensive workplace drug testing policy, employers can reduce their chances of employing a prescription drug-abusing employee.