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Here on the ESS blog, we aim to help business owners and hiring professionals better understand the magnitude of the drug testing and background check industry. We are proud to partner with so many incredible organizations across the country to provide insight and expertise in the area of background checks so that they can make smarter hiring decisions. Today on the blog, we wanted to shed light on one type of employment drug testing, reasonable suspicion drug testing. 

Having a quality background check partner is paramount to ensuring you have all your ducks in a row when it comes to drug testing. If you have a question about your current drug testing policy, please don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a call or fill out our contact form. We recommend every company has a trusted, go-to provider of background check services, so you can always have someone to rely on for questions. Drug testing compliance and regulation vary from state to state, but there are some high-level things to be aware of.

Let’s break down what Reasonable Suspicion means, what it DOESN’T mean, and why it matters for your company.

What Does ‘Reasonable Suspicion’ Mean?

“Reasonable Suspicion” occurs when you observe or find evidence of impairment. Impairment, specifically, does not always mean a person is abusing drugs or other substances. There are medical conditions that could cause “impairment,” but this suspicion is either validated or disproved through a positive or negative drug test. 

Signs of Substance Abuse

The better you know your employees, the more you will be able to tell they could be “impaired.” There are many signs that could lead you to believe that an employee may be abusing drugs, but here are a few to be aware of:

  • Physical Evidence of substances and/or paraphernalia 
  • Erratic and/or abnormal patterns of behavior 
  • Personality changes
  • Poor attendance, unexplained breaks
  • Disorientation and confusion on routine tasks
  • Signs of lack of normal hygiene and/or grooming
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Damage to property, theft, borrowing money from others
  • Withdrawn behavior

Common Excuses for Drug or Alcohol Impairment on the Job

If you’ve observed any of these traits, there are specific steps that you can (and should) take to address the situation as soon as possible. We recommend that you reach out to your drug testing partner to lay out the best action plan if you don’t already have one. To reiterate, what you can do, and what you should do, will vary based on what state you are in. 

If you or someone else at work does end up in a conversation focusing on an employee’s impairment, remain calm, and seek to understand, but be aware of some of these common excuses:

  • “I’m having a reaction to a medication.”
  • “I’m just depressed.”
  • “I’m just hungover from last night.”
  • “I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”
  • “I recently changed prescriptions”

Regardless of what is causing the impairment, and regardless of what industry your company falls under, it must be addressed asap. Having an employee who is physically impaired can cause accidents, lower productivity, and damage your company’s reputation. A reasonable suspicion drug test could help rule out substance abuse, and provide insight into what the issue is.

What You Can’t Do

If you do suspect substance abuse on the job, it’s important to know in order to send an employee for reasonable suspicion or “for cause” drug test, you must see or smell signs of impairment first-hand. You can’t include something you heard or stories from an employee about using away from work in the documentation. If someone does report to you that they suspect drug or alcohol impairment, you must make the observation yourself before you act. You also can only test based on the current instance of suspicion, not past observations. 

Have a Comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy

The best thing you can do today is to review your existing drug and alcohol testing policy. Consider what state you are in, and how the laws have changed over the last few years. The decriminalization of marijuana has become a hot-button topic in the workplace, and it’s important to know what you can or can’t do if someone appears they may be under the influence. If you don’t have a trusted partner to turn to for drug testing-related questions, feel free to give us a call! We’re more than willing to help any company make better hiring decisions!