The Number of Employees Testing Positive for Marijuana Is Up Significantly
As reported by Allen Smith, Manager of Workplace Law for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), in a mid-September announcement. Using data provided by Quest Diagnostics for calendar years 2012 and 2013, the increase reported represents the FIRST INCREASE in marijuana positives since 2003! After reaching a high of 13.6% in 1988, positive drug testing outcomes had been steadily decreasing. In 2013, positive test results were up 3.7%, following a 3.5% increase in the positive rate the year prior. The connection between this increase and the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington did not go unnoticed. Positive results for marijuana use in Washington increased by 23% and in Colorado 20%, compared to a 5% increase among the US general workforce covering all 50 states. The PACE Staffing Network has been offering and then administering drug testing on our client’s behalf since the early 1990s. Initially, our clients got a lot of push back on their drug testing policies, but today, both pre-hire and random drug testing practices are considered the norm with only an occasional challenge from the ADA related to screenings for prescription drugs. While “for cause” testing is more frequently contested, according to Quest, it is the most common reason why workers are drug tested. At the current time, our clients range from zero tolerance employers who require all applicants for either permanent or temporary employment to be rigorously drug tested, to employers who openly request that we not drug screen, concerned that recruiting results will fall short of the numbers of employees needed—particularly when the workers are being used for short term, temporary assignments where product out the door is the driving factor in HR policy. Some employers claim that while some of their workers are known weekend marijuana users, they are amongst their best workers and don’t want an unnecessarily “restrictive” HR policy to interfere with their “business as usual” mentality. The type of drug testing our clients ask us to administer provides some clue as to their level of “tolerance” they are willing to enforce and at what cost. Employers who are serious about eliminating any type of drug use from their workforce typically require hair testing over urine or saliva testing because of its ability to uncover signs of drug use for up to 6 months. Unfortunately, we anticipate these will be the first types of drug testing methods to be legally challenged. While at the current time employers in both Washington and Colorado retain the right to restrict the recreational use of marijuana by employees and can impose sanctions on employees testing positive for marijuana whether it was ingested during a work day or on the weekend. Many believe that the court test of these “one size fits all” types of drug testing policies and sanctions are just around the corner.