Reasonable Suspicion Testing
Reasonable suspicion drug and/or alcohol testing is a tool found in many drug policies that is employed by companies looking to establish a safe, secure and healthy environment for their employees, colleagues, customers and community. Reasonable suspicion simply means that there is reason to believe the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job. This belief or suspicion must be based on objective factors, such as the direct observation of an employee’s appearance, speech, behavior, odor or other conduct. Reasonable suspicion should not be based on hearsay or rumors and should not include behavior or conduct that is simply attributable to some type of common error. For example, dropping something on the floor, being late to work or being in a bad mood could have many explanations. While these actions may cause a good supervisor to pay closer attention to this particular employee, they do not rise to level of reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol use. Closer observation may lead to other observations such as slurred speech, unsteady balance, dilated pupils, excessive perspiration, etc – all of which could lead to reasonable suspicion testing.
Professional training of supervisory staff is the best way to learn about reasonable suspicion testing. In some industries, such as DOT regulated companies, supervisor training is required. Training should teach supervisors about the types of drugs that are tested for as well as the signs and symptoms indicating possible use of these substances. For instance, cocaine is a stimulant and makes everything in the body speed up. Those under the influence of cocaine may be hyper, have rapid movements, be talkative and have dilated or enlarged pupils. These are the types of signs a supervisor should be trained to look for as reasonable suspicion of the use of cocaine, or any other stimulant like meth or crack. In addition to learning more about the drugs and what to look for in the use of such drugs, supervisors should also be trained in what constitutes reasonable suspicion and how to properly identify and document direct observations. Supervisors who are not trained to identify and observe the signs of use associated with drug and alcohol may expose the company up to significant liability, discrimination claims and other legal issues.
Addressing a Situation
A good supervisor training program will also provide instruction on the best ways to approach an employee in a reasonable suspicion situation. Maintaining privacy and properly documenting the incident are critical to handling a reasonable suspicion incident. Once a supervisor has determined reasonable suspicion exists through their direct observation, they should follow the steps outlined by the company. Getting a second supervisor to observe the employee in question and completing an incident report or other paperwork documenting the observations are good ways of preparing to address the employee and the situation. The employee should be escorted to an area where personnel matters can be discussed privately. The employee should be advised of the supervisor’s observations and that they are being referred for reasonable suspicion testing. The employee should then be escorted to the collection site for the drug and/or alcohol testing to be completed and arrangements should be made for the employee to get home safely. At no time should an employee suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol be allowed to operate a motor vehicle. If you are sending them for reasonable suspicion testing, by default, you are suspecting that they are currently under the influence.
Testing & Results
Testing is recommended to be done by a trained and certified collector – preferably by a third party lab or clinic
– either at the clinic location or having the collector come to the company site. In the case of drug tests, laboratory confirmation and medical review of the test results should be an absolute requirement to avoid any mistakes or erroneous results. For alcohol tests, a confirmation test of alcohol levels should be conducted by a certified Breath Alcohol Technician for complete and accurate results. All positive results should be submitted to the employee in writing within 24 hours of receiving the results. A reasonable suspicion situation requires careful handling of documentation, personnel records and potentially sensitive test results. All employees having access to this information have a legal responsibility to maintain the strictest and highest standards of confidentiality throughout the entire process.