Friday, September 23, 2011

State Drug Testing Law Imposes Strict Requirements

The Arizona Drug Testing of Employees Act mandates certain conditions that employers must meet to qualify for the benefits and protections the law offers.   This is the price of admission for employers wanting to claim the significant benefits offered by the Act.

In response to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), the Arizona Legislature amended the  Act to give employers additional tools to use in conjunction with a drug testing program to maintain safe and productive workplaces.  To take advantage of these tools, however, the employer still must meet the law's procedural requirements, which are very much designed to protect the employee. 

In other words, the 2011 amendments to the Act increased the benefits and protections for employers, but did not lower the price of admission.  Here are a few of the important procedural requirements a workplace drug testing program must meet to comply with the Drug Testing of Employees Act:

Written policy required:  Employers must document their drug testing program in a written policy that is distributed to all employees.  It can be contained in an employee handbook or posted where other employee notices are posted.  Employers also must inform applicants if they will be required to submit to a drug test as a condition of employment.  The policy must be detailed and set forth the circumstances under which testing will be required, the substances that will be tested, and any adverse actions that may be taken as a result of a positive test or a refusal to submit to testing.

Timing of tests: Testing normally must occur either during or immediately before or after a regular work period.  The time spent being tested is considered work time for purposes of compensation and benefits.

Cost of tests:  The employer must pay all actual costs for drug and alcohol impairment testing of its employees, but not of applicants.  The law gives employers the discretion to pick up the cost of pre-employment drug testing if they so choose.  If the testing is done off-site, the employer must pay reasonable transportation costs for current employees.

Opportunity to provide relevant information:  The employee must have an opportunity to provide notice of any information relevant to the test, including identification of currently or recently used prescription or nonprescription drugs or other medical information.

No exemptions allowed:  If an employer chooses to implement a drug testing program, all compensated employees, including officers, directors, and supervisors, must be included uniformly in the testing program. 

Confidentiality:  All information regarding drug testing must be maintained in confidence by the employer.

Instituting a compliant drug testing program can be costly and must be done correctly to obtain all the benefits that come with it.  But for Arizona employers concerned about how the AMMA may affect their business, the Drug Testing of Employees Act is certainly worth a close look.

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