Drug Testing

Don’t Make These 5 Big Mistakes After an Employee Tests Positive


It’s an employer’s nightmare: A key employee’s drug test comes back positive. If your business regularly conducts drug tests, however, it’s only a matter of time until it happens to you. In all likelihood, it already has.

Oftentimes, employers feel betrayed, confused, or angry when an employee they depend on tests positive for drugs. Sometimes, our first inclination is to fire the employee, but this isn’t always the best solution for either our business or the employee. So if a critical employee tests positive in Houston, what should his or her employer do about it?

Drug use has consequences for everyone and everything an abuser touches, including his or her workplace. It should never be ignored. However, untrained supervisors and HR professionals can easily make serious mistakes when dealing with a positive test result. Here are the big mistakes that Workplace Safety Screenings advises our clients to avoid:

1. Believing that quitting drugs or alcohol is a simple matter of motivation.

Threatening to fire an employee addicted to drugs or alcohol likely won’t end their addiction. Addiction is a disease. Some people are more susceptible to addiction based on their gene pool or other factors. Others who naturally are not prone to addiction enjoy more control over their impulses.

Some drug abusers who stop abruptly from using alcohol, opiates, cocaine, or amphetamines can become very ill. Sometimes it can be life-threatening.  For those people, the risk of stopping using may seem greater than the risk of losing their job because they are likely to end up non-functional.  It seems easier and less risky for them to fool everyone around them into believing they are sober than it is to get sober.

2. Telling off an employee you want to get help and return to work.

It’s natural to be frustrated with an employee who tests positive for drugs or alcohol. Their behavior has put your business at risk. Yelling at or harshly criticizing an employee for their test results is rarely helpful, however. It’s more likely to push them further away, instead.

Your employee is about to have an uphill battle to kick an addiction.  The best way to approach this is with love and support. Don’t misunderstand—you ARE about to deliver an ultimatum.  The way it’s delivered is important, however.  Let them know how much you’d love to keep them as an employee and give them their options for treatment and let them know how you can support them. This makes them more likely to go along with the suggested treatment and salvage the work relationship.

Consider consulting a substance abuse professional on how to properly approach these situations in a manner that encourages the employee to get better.

3. Failing to insist on a supervised rehabilitation program

Most of the time when someone is caught using drugs, it isn’t their first time, regardless of what they tell you. The first step to keeping an employee who has tested positive is to have them evaluated by a professional who should then prescribe their ongoing program.

You can require the employee to pay for the evaluation themselves, or you can pay for some or all of the evaluation as an employee benefit. Requiring at least partial payment from the employee can help judge how serious he or she is about keeping their job.

After the initial evaluation, the treatment prescribed can be as simple as drug abuse education and attending regular AA meetings for a specific time period.  Many times, the treatment prescribed is free (AA meetings are free) or priced very low.  Health insurance may also cover some of the costs.

4. Suspending employees for a period and then welcome them back to work without follow-up drug tests

If your employee that tested positive is off work for days or weeks, there is an increased chance that they will turn to drugs. Boredom often leads to drug use in people who are already susceptible.

For all employees who violate your substance abuse policy, it is within your rights as an employer to require a direct-observed drug test for their “return to duty” and “follow up” testing in Texas. Someone who has violated your policy before needs to have some accountability to make sure they aren’t tempted to violate it again.  That is why we believe it’s vital to have “follow-up” testing, as well.

Follow-up testing helps you ensure that your employees who receive a second chance are clear that they will be tested frequently for a long period of time and therefore will have to keep clean in order to continue to work for your company.

Workplace Safety Screenings is available 24/7 to service your business drug-testing needs! Our secure and discrete collectors can be on their way to any location they’re needed within 15 minutes of your phone call. To schedule on-site testing or learn more about our services, call us now at (855) 974-4960!

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