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A Drug Free Workplace

In 1986 the President signed an Executive Order mandating that all Federal agencies be drug-free. Two years later Congress passed the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, as amended, which requires Federal grantees and recipients of Federal contracts worth $100,000 or more (or a federal grant, regardless of the amount) to comply with the following:

• The employer must have a written policy that explains what is prohibited and the consequences of violating the policy.
• Employees must read and consent to the policy as a condition of employment on the project.
• The employer must have an awareness program to educate employees about the dangers of drug abuse in the workplace; the employer’s policy of maintaining a drug-free workplace; any available drug counseling, rehabilitation, and employee assistance programs; and the penalties that may be imposed upon employees for drug abuse violations.
• Employees must disclose any conviction for a drug-related offense in the workplace to the employer within 5 days after such conviction.
• Employers must disclose any conviction for a drug-related offense in the workplace to the Federal agency with which the employer has a grant or contact within 10 days after receiving notice from the employee or others.
• Employers must make an ongoing effort to maintain a workplace free of drugs.

Since adoption of the federal law, many non-affected employers have decided to implement a drug-free workplace program even though they do not fall under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Most have done this in order to reduce the negative impact that drugs and alcohol have on their workplace and to realize the short- and long-term benefits that drug-free workplace programs can have. These include:

Short-Term Benefits

• Cost savings and incentive programs frequently offered by medical and health insurance carriers, liability insurance carriers and workers’ compensation insurers.
• Less likelihood that a current user/abuser will apply for a job or be hired.
• Fewer accidents and disciplinary problems.
• Reduced losses due to absenteeism, theft and fraud.
• Ability to respond quickly when problems with alcohol or drug abuse issues arise.

Long-Term Benefits
• Improved employee morale and productivity.
• Lower costs due to fewer losses and errors.
• Reduced costs of insurance claims.
• Reduced legal expenses and reduced costs of hiring and training new employees.
• Earlier identification and resolution of problems affecting job performance.

A comprehensive drug-free workplace program includes a clearly-enunciated company policy, employee education, supervisor training, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and drug testing. Drug testing is not required under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, although many companies include some type of drug testing as part of their program. Refer to the section on Non-Mandated Testing for a review of some important considerations that you should be aware of before finalizing your decision on testing.
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