As of 2018, nine states have legalized the use of cannabis, or marijuana, for recreational purposes, while 31 states have legalized its use for treating certain medical conditions. The medical and recreational marijuana laws are ever-changing, and this makes it confusing for employers who maintain a drug-free workplace policy — especially those companies under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation (or DOT).
What DOT Participants Need to Know
All employees designated by the DOT with safety-sensitive roles are required to comply with the DOT's standard drug and alcohol testing. This includes businesses within the:
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Federal Transit Association (FTA)
- United States Coast Guard (USCG)
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
Although some states permit the use of marijuana for recreational and medical purposes, this will not affect the DOT's regulated drug testing program. Thus, pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, subway operators, and other safety-sensitive transportation employees are prohibited from using any kind of drug — including marijuana — for any reason.
Furthermore, no special considerations shall be given to employees working under the states where the use of medical or recreational marijuana is legal. Thus, Medical Review Officers (or MROs) will not verify a drug test negative even if the employee used recreational marijuana after the state has passed the recreational marijuana initiatives.
Likewise, MROs will not verify a drug test negative even if the employee was given a recommendation by a physician to use marijuana for medical purposes in states where the use of medical marijuana is legal.
Remember, the DOT overrules individual state laws when it comes to medical and recreational marijuana.
The Risks of Drug Abuse in the Workplace
The DOT's strict requirements are designed to keep the employees and the public safe. Drugs can cause mood changes, anxiety, psychosis, impaired judgment, and depression, and these things can negatively affect your organization.
Drugs Can Affect an Employee's Productivity
Employees under the influence may exhibit tardiness, poor decision-making capabilities, and loss of efficiency. This can decrease your company’s productivity and can lead to negative financial consequences.
Drugs May Increase the Likelihood of an Employee Causing Trouble
Employees under the influence may have abrupt mood swings and exhibit poor judgment, and this may result in conflicts within the organization. An employee abusing drugs may be more prone to arguments with their co-workers or superiors, and this can affect the atmosphere within your company. Research has found that when drug abuse is in the workplace, the rate of crime increases.
Substance Abuse May Affect the Team's Morale
Tardiness, loss of efficiency, and conflicts within the organization can turn the mood of your company sour, and this can lower employees' morale. Maintaining a substance-free workplace is crucial for the overall attitude of your workplace and the well-being of employees.
Higher Employee Turnover Can Be a Problem
Absenteeism and tardiness on the part of employees abusing drugs can sometimes turn into their resignation or even removal from the company. Thus, drug abuse is bad for your employee turnover rate.
Furthermore, when the atmosphere in your company is not a positive one and more employees are unhappy with the situation, the rate of resignation on their part is also at risk of suffering. Higher employee turnover means you need to hire and train new employees again, and this takes time and costs significant money.
It Increases the Risk of Injuries and Accidents
Drug abuse in the workplace may put the employee under the influence and the people around them in danger, which is why it's vital that employees, especially DOT participants, stay away from drugs. A small mistake can have heavy consequences, and it's important for these individuals to keep a clear head at work.
Considering the inherent risk involved in certain safety-sensitive positions — to both the worker and even the general public — avoiding accidents and injuries is non-negotiable.
How DOT Participants Can Stay Protected
Have a Written Drug-Free Workplace Policy
To maintain a drug-free workplace, one of the actions that the employer must take is to create a written workplace policy. The policy must contain clear rules on the type of drug tests employees must take, under what conditions they’ll be required to take them, and the repercussions if an employee tests positive or refuses to participate.
Drug-free workplace policies must abide by the DOT's rules and regulations in addition to the particular laws defined by the specific agency which you fall under.
Train Designated Employer Representatives
Training people who will oversee the implementation and management of your drug-free workplace policy is an important part of the process. These individuals must be able to identify the signs of drug use and act accordingly when it comes to getting employees tested and ensuring workers potentially under the influence are removed from safety-sensitive positions as necessary.
Work With a Third-Party Company Like US Drug Test Centers
Working with a third-party company that strictly adheres to the DOT compliance standards, like US Drug Test Centers, is the best way to adhere to your DOT agency’s expectations. A reliable partner can help you create an effective written drug-free workplace policy, train your representatives, collect specimens, conduct drug and alcohol testing, and have all results reviewed and verified by an MRO. We can guide you through the process and help you implement your drug-free workplace program to ensure that your workplace is a safe and productive environment for you and your employees.
The Department of Transportation means serious business when it comes to maintaining a substance-free workplace. That, coupled with the fact that the laws are constantly changing, can make it challenging to ensure you're always compliant. We aim to make the process as convenient and stress-free as possible. Plus, with more than 20,000 locations around the nation, you are never more than a few miles away from drug and alcohol testing.
Contact US Drug Test Centers today to set up a drug-free workplace program you can rely on.