RENO, Nev. — A Saturday session at the STN EXPO covered reasonable suspicion drug testing. Presenter Tonica Lathrop, president of Sinnett Consulting Services, reiterated that drug testing should only be done based on evidence, never on hunches or “gut feelings.”
“You never want to test based on feelings, but on documentable observations,” she said, also cautioning against making assumptions about employees based on things like how they dress or whether they have tattoos.
Lathrop added that coworkers are the people more likely to come forward about drug use suspicions, because they are the ones working next to each other all day, while supervisors may sometimes just see their employees for brief intervals.
The best way for supervisors to address these situations, she said, is to simply say “I’ll take care of it” and not involve that particular employee any further. She noted that while one employee could potentially falsely accuse another of drug use, it is important to at least “react to” these reports. Doing so can protect a supervisor from potential liability issues in the future.
For example, if a school bus driver were to get into an accident while under the influence, and it is found out that the supervisor had been notified of the driver’s suspected substance abuse, they could possibly be named in a lawsuit.
“If somebody tells you they saw something, go look at this employee, go observe them,” Lathtrop said. “Maybe there’s nothing to it, and if there’s nothing to it, I’m going to document it. The only way to know for sure is to test.”
She added that it is important, for safety reasons, to have another person present when conducting a reasonable suspicion interview, as individuals under the influence of certain drugs may have defensive and violent reactions. She suggested that the other party be someone who can uphold confidentiality, such as someone from the human resources department.
Another tip Lathrop shared was to never take an employee to a collection site in your personal vehicle, as you and your insurance may be liable should anything occur on the way there, but to instead use a company car or cab if possible.
If an employee refuses to test and drives off, she suggested calling 911 and telling dispatch you are concerned about the safety of the employee and the public, and to never express any opinions, just facts.
Lathrop also reported a few statistics about the effects of drugs and alcohol on employee productivity, such as the fact that substance abusers are 10 times more likely to miss work, and are significantly less productive when they are at work.