An employer recently called me to inquire about a drug testing policy.  The employer received reports that a delivery driver had driven while under the influence of alcohol.  These types of occurrences often serve as wake up calls.  Drug testing can deter such behavior.  So it makes sense to implement drug tests in the workplace, right?  Well . . . maybe.   

I have dealt with many employers who were surprised by the requirements of Iowa’s drug testing law (Iowa code section 730.5).  Before making a decision on drug testing, several factors should be considered.

The types of private sector workplace drug testing in Iowa include:

  1. Unannounced testing of workers randomly selected from pools of employees.
  2. Testing of employees during, and after completion of drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
  3. Testing of employees for reasonable suspicion.
  4. Testing of prospective employees.
  5. Testing of employees, as required by federal law or regulation or by law enforcement.
  6. Testing of employees in the investigation of workplace accidents that cause sufficient injury or damage to require a report to OSHA.

But the responsibilities of employers that drug test are many, including:

  1. The employer must establish a detailed written drug testing policy – prior to testing – and provide it to every employee subject to testing.
  2. The employer must establish – prior to testing – and maintain either an Employee Assistance program or a resource file where workers can access help for substance abuse problems.
  3. The employer must provide supervisors with a minimal amount of annual training (2 hours the first year, and 1 hour each year thereafter).
  4. In the event of a positive alcohol test in which the alcohol concentration exceeds the levels established by the employer – and under certain other conditions – the employer may be required to pay up to $2,000 in rehabiliation costs for the employee in question, depending on employee benefit plan coverage.
  5. A laboratory doing business for an employer that conducts drug or alcohol tests must file an annual report with the Iowa Department of Public Health by March 1 of each year concerning the number of positive drug and alcohol tests during the previous calendar year.

Before deciding to drug test you should make sure you review the requirements of Iowa Code 730.5 with your employment or business lawyer. Performing drug tests may be necessary in your business but you need to make sure you are acting within the requirements of the law. Mistakes could be very costly and subject you to significant liability.  The costs of drug testing may be more than many small businesses want to spend. And just because you do not test doesn’t mean you cannot have a policy prohibiting drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

See this post on Avoiding the Pitfalls of Drug Testing for an example of why it is so important to follow Iowa’s drug testing law.  Be sure to get appropriate advice before implementing a testing policy.