April 21, 2023

Workplace drug testing is a contentious issue that requires a delicate balance between employee privacy and safety. For employers, the need to ensure a safe working environment may require drug testing, while employees often view drug testing as an invasion of privacy.

But what makes it so controversial for employers and employees alike? What should companies consider before implementing their own drug testing policies? And how can your company find a balance between a safe environment and employee rights?

Why Companies Need a Workplace Drug Testing Program

According to a survey conducted by American Addiction Centers, drug use in the workplace is not uncommon, especially for work-at-home positions (nearly 40% of the respondents report being high during at-home work hours).

While most of this use is related to recreational marijuana, a statistically significant percentage of people reported using substances like meth, opioids, and illegal stimulants.

Workplace Use Concerns

The most commonly abused substances in the workplace include some unsurprising names (caffeine is no shock), but many of the other drugs might be more alarming:

  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs (oxycodone, etc.)
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Meth
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • Amphetamine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Over-the-counter substances
  • Nicotine

Workplace Drug Testing: Navigating the Balance Between Safety & Employee Trust

Let’s jump into the four most common objections to drug testing in the workplace, and explore how choosing the right drug testing system can completely change your company’s drug policy, even when facing rapidly changing marijuana legislation.

Employees who have experienced random drug screenings in their companies often report feelings of frustration, distrust, anxiety, and anger over conventional screening methods. In short, most people don't trust that drug test results are accurate; they hate sacrificing their privacy and dignity and see the whole process as inefficient and wasteful.

When faced with these objections, there are typically common questions that arise. Fortunately, using the PharmChek® Sweat Patch for workplace drug testing can address many of the issues that companies face when considering drug testing methods, particularly in the place of urinalysis.

1: Cost

“Drug testing is too expensive and too difficult to implement.”

The PharmChek® Sweat Patch provides a far greater value than alternative testing methods. Even with a higher cost per test, your company comes out ahead in the long run.

Are Sweat Patch tests too expensive for large companies?

Each Sweat Patch is more expensive than a single urine test. However, with up to 10 days of continuous detection, the patch provides a more comprehensive view of use patterns than urinalysis testing, and requires fewer appointments, too. Extended testing windows are just one of the many advantages of the Sweat Patch, along with its ease of application and collection and tamper-evident design.

The PharmChek® Drugs of Abuse Sweat Patch is easy to apply, collect, and send for testing.

Yes, you'll be paying more for the Sweat Patch than other options, but you'll have a better testing system that provides a broader window of detection and results, as well as fewer issues with sample collection and adulteration.

How much time is required for travel to and from testing facilities?

With our online training and certification, as well as our Training Tuesdays program, you can have a trained observer within your company if you choose. That means no travel, no complicated scheduling, and no loss of productivity.

Can Sweat Patch testing be implemented effectively and efficiently?

Most drug tests are invasive, often requiring either a medical professional at a medical facility or a gender-specific observer to guarantee an unadulterated sample. And since many tests must be done at a designated location, your workforce is required to travel off-site to get tested.

In contrast, the PharmChek® Drugs of Abuse Sweat Patch is easy to apply, collect, and send for testing. It’s non-invasive and gender-indifferent, so there’s no need for special staffing requirements. Your testing can be done in-house with a trained observer, making it even more convenient for your employees. And you don’t have to worry about exposure to bodily fluids.

The Sweat Patch is clearly one of the most effective and efficient options available today for workplace drug testing.

2: Efficacy

“You can’t trust the results.”

Other drug tests are regularly jeopardized by tampering and adulteration. The Sweat Patch is virtually tamper-proof. Its unique design provides clear evidence of any attempt to remove, alter, or replace the absorption pad before it’s collected. You'll know if the test is valid or not before ever mailing it in for analysis.

And with court-supported rulings on its abilities to test for a long list of drugs, the Sweat Patch has been proven a trustworthy drug testing device for more than three decades.

Are results typically accurate?

The PharmChek® Drugs of Abuse Sweat Patch has a well-documented track record of accuracy, backed by hundreds of court rulings, dozens of peer-reviewed academic studies, and is cleared by the FDA. Its use in legal applications, from drug abuse cases to child welfare and advocacy, demonstrates that its results are also trustworthy for workplace drug testing.

Can results be adulterated?

The unique construction of PharmChek® ensures that it's easy to recognize any attempt to tamper with the Sweat Patch device. The single-use adhesive film protects the collection patch from external environmental contamination and allows donors to maintain regular day-to-day routines. Attempts to remove, dilute, or alter the collection patch are visible to trained observers, making it nearly impossible to fake results.

The Sweat Patch has been proven a trustworthy drug testing device for more than three decades.

Does it really improve workplace safety and performance?

First and foremost, safety and performance improvements depend on your drug policies. However, a testing system that provides continuous sample collection improves accountability, consistency, and habit-building incentives for drug-free workplaces. The Sweat Patch provides up to 10 days of continuous sample collection (and up to 14 when paired with our optional PharmChek® Overlay), which helps keep your workplace safer for longer.

Can workplace drug testing with the Sweat Patch determine patterns of use?

Drug use patterns, such as the amount and time of consumption, are not entirely possible with any drug testing method. However, an extended detection window provides a more complete picture of drug use patterns and habits than single-sample testing like hair and saliva testing or urinalysis.

Can it be used to help leverage other resources?

Workplace drug testing with the PharmChek® Sweat Patch can provide information to help employees find the support they need to address substance use or abuse issues. In court cases, PharmChek® has been a critical factor in determining treatment plans, recovery program placements, rehab requirements, and accountability support for countless individuals.

3: Privacy

“You’ll invade employee privacy.”

Drug tests must be conducted in a controlled environment with proper protocols to ensure accuracy and reliability. However, in many cases, the close supervision of sample collection that is often required can lead to legitimate privacy concerns.

Does the Sweat Patch require invasive observations?

Most random workplace drug testing creates tension, anxiety, and stress for individuals afraid of false positives or invasive collection processes. The Sweat Patch, however, is a solution that leads to much less stress than typical urine analysis, oral, or hair testing.

Since the Sweat Patch is applied to the upper arm or midriff, there is no need for invasive or privacy-violating observations. Clothing can remain on, and donors do not need to expose themselves to apply or collect the Sweat Patch. The Sweat Patch is also gender-indifferent, so there's no need for specific genders during the application or removal process of the Sweat Patch.

Does the Sweat Patch honor personal privacy?

Workplace drug testing with the Sweat Patch only collects and tests samples for specific parent drugs and their metabolites. It cannot prove other medical conditions, nor can it be used to invade medical privacy rights.

What about workplace relations?

Workplace drug policies don't create stigmas or damage reputations when implemented correctly. And with PharmChek®, testing is discreet, and results remain confidential through our secure reporting system.

When used as a part of a positive recovery response program, the Sweat Patch can help remove stigmas altogether. Ideally, PharmChek® is used in conjunction with positive reinforcement and incentive programs rather than just as a punitive measure. This approach helps establish a culture of positivity and growth, leading to better employee health.

4: Legality

“There are too many legal risks.”

Taking simple steps can help safeguard against legal action that may stem from workplace drug testing, including its constitutionality and discrimination.

Are there specific laws that prohibit workplace drug testing?

While a few states have more detailed laws, workplace drug testing is legal in most states when there is a drug-free work policy and a written policy regarding testing practices. So long as your company is prepared, you can implement a successful screening program.

What about 4th Amendment search and seizure rights?

Since urine collection has been ruled a search, according to the 4th Amendment definition, some situations requiring a urine sample may be unconstitutional. However, sweat collection does not fit within this definition. And even if it was considered a search or seizure (it isn't), strong written policies for your company's drug testing program often keep your company safe from potential legal issues.

What about discrimination in the workplace?

Your workplace drug testing policy is critical: so long as your testing process is delivered in a way that prevents discrimination, using the Sweat Patch for screenings is within your rights as an employer. This can either be a blanket testing program (everyone is tested periodically, especially in high-risk industries) or testing by reasonable cause (e.g., after an injury where the employee may have been impaired).

What About Medical or Recreational Marijuana Use?

As more states adopt legal use legislation for cannabis, drug testing policies become more challenging to navigate. Depending on your state's laws, your employees could be fully within their legal rights to use marijuana. However, that doesn't mean your policy must exclude marijuana use in the workplace.

Even when caused by legal substances, impairment can still result in safety hazards on the job. Define your acceptable use policy for marijuana within your overall drug policy, and prepare your employees by providing education on what is and is not permitted. Federal policies, especially for government agencies, can also further restrict use. Research your state and industry's current legal best practices before finalizing your policies.

Can it lead to termination?

A positive test could justify termination, depending on your company's drug policy. The greatest concern is in false positive results for drug tests, including misidentified substances that are often detected in drug panels (poppy seeds, Advil, certain prescription medications, etc.).

But with the Sweat Patch, such false positives are nearly eliminated through a two-stage testing process. Any initial indication of a positive result is then tested again to confirm a drug's presence in the sweat.

What Makes an Effective Workplace Drug Testing Program?

Workplace drug testing is beneficial, but only when the right program design is implemented. So how do you create an effective drug testing program for your company? By keeping these key qualities in mind from start to finish.

Clearly Defined Company Expectations and Policies

Your policies are the foundation of your workplace drug testing program. Without clear and specific policies, your chance for legal issues increases. The key concepts you need to cover are:

  • How will testing be performed?
  • What information will be collected?
  • How will the information be used?
  • When will testing be required (random, company-wide, event-related, etc.)?
  • What outcomes are possible for specific testing results (employee sanctions or termination, interventions, and recovery support options)?

When you start with these principles in place, it is far easier to implement a program that will encourage employee buy-in and support.

PharmChek® is an opportunity to incorporate intervention and support responses that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, and healthier habits in both the workplace and at home.

Testing that Respects Employee Privacy

As mentioned, a significant pain point for employees is potential privacy violations. Some testing options have the potential to be used for more than just drug panel analyses. Unfortunately, that can lead to abuse of medical information (remember: your policy should cover this clearly, and should be followed closely). The Sweat Patch eliminates medical privacy concerns since it does not collect or test for medical conditions.

Convenient and Unobtrusive Testing

Design your program to make testing easy and minimally invasive. Employees shouldn’t be forced to make drastic scheduling sacrifices within or beyond work hours. On-site testing is the best option, and you should avoid testing that requires obtrusive observations. And with the Sweat Patch, you can have in-house trained observers to apply and collect samples instead of subcontracting or sending your employees off-site.

Testing Results You Can Trust

Minimize the chance for false positives by choosing a drug test that provides a high level of efficacy. If you provide a testing solution that eases anxiety for your employees, you’ll have more success through your workplace drug testing program. Our two-stage verification provides your company with accurate results you can trust every time.

Positive Responses and Support for Substance Use Disorders

At PharmChem, we've seen firsthand how drug testing benefits positive reinforcement and behavioral modification programs in drug-related court rulings. Excluding a viable tool like PharmChek® from your operations is a missed opportunity to improve workplace safety. It's an opportunity to incorporate intervention and support responses that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, and healthier habits in both the workplace and at home. In instances of drug policy infractions, a corporate response that promotes growth over the punishment of employees can initiate lasting and positive change, leading to improved loyalty and workforce retention.

Start Your Program with the PharmChek® Sweat Patch

Ready to revamp your workplace drug testing program? Consider PharmChek®, the most efficient, easy-to-use device to augment your testing program when 24/7 testing and accuracy are paramount to your organization's success.

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