Heard it on the Hotline: Can We Change Our Drug Testing Guidelines for Marijuana Use?

September 08, 2021
MRA Edge
Drugs & Alcohol
Conflict Management
Read time: 2 mins

While employers fight the battle to find qualified employees, many have taken creative approaches to lure candidates to the doorstep. One example is changing the pre-employment drug screen requirements. Other employers wonder how to implement drug-fee policies when employees are working from home.

Q. My employer conducts pre-employment drug screens for all new hires using the five-panel test. It is becoming more difficult to find good candidates in this tight labor market, and the general manager would like to overlook a positive test result and proceed in hiring a candidate who is positive for marijuana on the pre-employment screen. What are your thoughts on this practice?

A: Many employers are revisiting their existing policy due to the changing laws and viewpoints on marijuana, as well as the tight labor market. Drug and alcohol policies and procedures are not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. As you explore your procedures for positive tests, consider your company culture and philosophy around testing, your recruitment and retention strategy, as well as both federal laws and state laws that apply. Whether you are a federal contractor, have drivers who operate under the DOT regulations, have safety-sensitive positions or caregiver roles, and the states in which your employees work all have an impact on your employer’s specific policy and procedures.

If you ultimately decide marijuana use is not a deterrent for hiring an individual, it is recommended that you work with your drug screening provider to customize a drug testing panel for your pre-employment test that does not include marijuana.

Q: Our company has a drug and alcohol-free policy in place. Since many employees are working from home, how can we address situations when it is suspected that a remote employee is in violation?

A: Most policies address employees being under the influence while performing job duties on the employer’s premises or while using or operating company property. In addition, some states have legalized the use of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use, so it may be more difficult to enforce a policy prohibiting its use, especially when an employee is not on your premises. The best solution is to give definition to the words making the policy too vague to enforce with remote workers.

Consider these updates to your current policy:

  • Define “workplace” in your policy as the employee’s physical work space.
  • Define use by time, if employees have regular work schedules, and specify that use should only be during nonworking hours.
  • Enforce any violations swiftly and in a timely manner when it appears that an employee’s performance has decreased or the ability to perform job tasks is impaired.