Drug Testing: Right for Olympians, Right for your Workforce?

As the attention of the entire world is fixed upon the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee has proudly proclaimed that the London Olympics will have the most comprehensive drug testing program in history, with 5,000 total tests overall. Thirty-six percent of those tests were imposed prior to the start of the Olympics. The top five finishers in each event will be tested along with two other athletes selected at random from all of the events’ participants. The tests are able to detect a huge swath of prohibited substances, everything from amphetamines to tranquilizers, steroids to opiates and almost everything imaginable in between, all with the intent of maintaining the integrity of the Olympic Games. Drug and Alcohol Testing could help your company increase work place safety, increase attendance and productivity and reduce potential liability arising from negligent hiring or other related employment claims. Could your company benefit from the Olympic example?

According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, drug-abusing employees cost 300% more in medical expenses and benefits, thereby increasing health insurance rates for everyone. In addition, research has indicated that employees using illicit drugs are up to three times more likely to be late for work and two and a half times more likely to have absences of eight or more consecutive days. Those employees even recreationally using drugs file worker’s compensation claims at five times the average rate and have over three and a half times as many workplace accidents than non-drug users.

Many employers both large and small would be wise to implement Drug and Alcohol Testing to minimize these negative effects on their businesses, but they must be vigilant in the creation and implementation of a Drug and Alcohol Testing Program to ensure that it meets the unique requirements of Minnesota law, which imposes one of the most expensive and difficult to follow drug testing legal and regulatory frameworks in the country. Employers new to Minnesota will want to make sure that their particular program is compliant with these rather unique elements. In determining whether an existing or contemplated Drug & Alcohol Testing Program complies with Minnesota law, consider the following, which are just a few of the many legal requirements applicable to drug and alcohol testing:

• The employer must have a written drug and alcohol testing policy compliant with state and federal law.
• Prior to requiring that an employee or applicant take a drug test, they must be provided with the employer’s Drug & Alcohol Policy and sign a form acknowledging receipt of the employer’s Policy.
• The employer must pay all costs for the tests.
• No negative action can be taken against an applicant or employee as a result of an initial screening test. The initial screening test must be verified by a confirmatory test.
• Unlike in many other states, both the initial test and the confirmatory test must be analyzed at a laboratory certified by the NIDA, CAP or the New York State Department of Health.
• Random testing is generally not allowed unless the employee is in a “safety-sensitive position” as that term is defined under the relevant law.
• An employee may not be terminated for the first positive test result unless the employee refuses to participate in a rehabilitation program at the employee’s expense or fails to complete the rehabilitation program.

The preceding is merely a general overview of some of the many issues employers need to consider when implementing or reviewing a Drug & Alcohol Policy. Employers who have not implemented or have not recently reviewed Drug and Alcohol testing policies are advised to contact Martin Kappenman or any Peters, Revnew, Kappenman & Anderson, P.A. attorney at (952) 896-1700 to have their polices audited for compliance with state and federal law.

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