Workplace Drug Testing FAQs:
1. Isn't drug testing an invasion of privacy?
2. If it's the law, how do I find out what law applies to me?
3. Do employers have the right to require that employees be tested for drugs and alcohol?
4. What information do they put on the forms that go with my sample?
5. What kinds of tests would I have to take? What drugs would I be tested for?
6. How reliable is drug testing?
7. What rights do I have in a testing program?
8. What happens if I decline to be tested?
9. Where would I be tested?
10. What actually happens when I go to be tested?
11. May donors be required to strip, wear a hospital gown or empty pockets?
12. What if I can’t donate a specimen: just can't "go" right then? Can I just go home and come back later?
13. What if I am physically unable to provide a specimen?
14. What does testing "positive" mean? What does testing "negative" mean?
15. Who establishes the cutoff limits?
16. What is a "false" positive, and how can they occur?
17. What qualifications are an MRO required to have?
18. What should I do if someone I work with has a drug problem?
19. Can I go to management for assistance if I have a drug or alcohol problem? What would happen?
20. What will be done to me if I test positive?
21. What is an EAP? What function do they perform?
22. How do the false positive rates and false negative rates compare for oral fluid and urine based drug testing?
23. Is it true that oral fluid is less accurate that urine?
24. Are the detection windows for oral fluid and urine different?
25. What factors affect the detection windows for both urine and oral fluid?
26. What is adulteration?
27. Can a urine sample be adulterated?
28. Can an oral fluid sample be adulterated?
29. Are gloves required for administering an oral fluid based drug screen?
1. If the program is properly administered, complies with Federal, State, & Local laws, and is conducted according to existing workplace policies, the courts have determined that drug testing is not an invasion of your privacy. The primary factor (among others) with respect to court decisions is the welfare and safety of others.
2. If you're concerned about a state law, contact your state's Attorney General. For Federal laws, check with your local librarian and review the Federal Register. Most regulations concerning Federal drug testing requirements are contained within the Omnibus Act of 1988 and subsequent amendments. If you're a union member, you can also contact your shop steward and discuss the situation with your Local's Union Representative.
3. Yes on both counts. But a company has to do it fairly.
4. For DOT testing, a DOT-approved form is required. It is designed to provide anonymity for the donor and will not have your name on it. For non-DOT testing, most labs and collection sites use a modified version of DOT forms.
5. Your employer has the right to set up a testing program for illicit drugs and/or alcohol and drug abuse. Under most circumstances, the types of tests, the drugs tested for and the cut-off levels can all be determined by your employer except in cases of DOT-mandated testing. However, the manner in which the testing is required may be regulated on a mandatory or advisory level by both Federal and State governments.
6. When both screening and confirmatory tests are conducted, the combined tests themselves become virtually 100% dependable.
7. Your basic rights extend primarily to the right to privacy and the right to question the legitimacy of a test result. You may have additional rights depending on your individual circumstances as well as State and local regulations.
8. Most company drug testing "Policies and Procedures" call for some form of disciplinary action which can include dismissal. The Department of Transportation Guidelines considers a refusal the same as a positive test (DOT 391).
9. Based upon the type of drug test administered, you may be tested at the worksite or a separate collection facility.
10. Traditionally, most drug testing methods have involved the analysis of urine specimens. This process is known as "urinalysis". Test results are reported as POSITIVE or NEGATIVE for illicit drugs.
A urine specimen is given at a collection site, which is usually a clinic or doctor's office. At the collection site, an employee usually provides the specimen in private. Each step of the process is documented with a "chain of custody" form. The collection and chain of custody procedure ensure the specimen is properly identified and tracked throughout the testing process.
All certified drug testing laboratories have established relationships with collection site facilities across the country. Your company will use one or more of these sites for specimen collection. Oral fluid specimens, however, can be given right at your worksite to a certified drug testing administrator.
Oral Fluid Testing is a two-stage process. First, an initial (screening) test is administered. If it is non-negative for one or more drugs, then a second, confirmatory test is usually conducted for each identified drug class. The confirmation test uses a different, more sophisticated chemical process. It ensures that substances such as over-the-counter medicines are not reported as positive. Again each step of the confirmatory process is documented using a “chain of custody” form.
11. Oral fluid testing does not require any change in clothing, or search of any kind.
For urine testing, you do not have to strip or wear a gown. DOT's procedures state: "The collection site person shall ask the individual to remove any unnecessary outer garments such as a coat or jacket that might conceal items or substances that could be used to tamper with or adulterate the individual's urine specimen. The collection site person shall insure that all personal belongings such as a purse or briefcase remain with the outer garments. The individual may retain his or her wallet." (DOT 49 CFR Part 40.) For urine testing, it should also be noted that if a collection site person, during the course of a collection procedure, notices an unusual indicator that an individual may attempt to tamper with or adulterate a specimen, as evidenced by a bulging or overstuffed pocket, for example, the collector may request that the donor empty his or her pockets, display the items and explain the need for them during the collection. This procedure may be done only when individualized suspicion exists that a donor may be about to tamper with or adulterate a specimen. Otherwise, requiring donors to empty their pockets as a common practice is also prohibited under the current rules (DOT 49 CFR Part 40).
12. If the donor is unable to provide a urine specimen initially, a circumstance referred to as “shy bladder”, fluids are provided with the dual objective of assisting the willing donor and encouraging the non-willing donor. There is no indication in the rules that an employee may be excused during this period. Only if the employee is still unable to provide a complete specimen do additional procedures come into play (DOT 49 CFR Part 40). Once administering fluids has failed to produce sufficient urine, then alternatives are available. They consist of having the employee remain at the collection site and continue to consume quantities of fluids until the specimen has been provided (up to 8 hours from inception of the collection) or discontinue the collection and conduct a subsequent collection at a later time. After eight hours of drinking one or more quarts of liquid, there should be no psychological excuse for a "shy bladder" situation. In this case, most Company Policy and Procedures call for specific proof of an actual medical condition to explain the cause.
For oral fluid testing, drinking a glass of water and waiting five minutes, typically enables most individuals to be able to donate a sample.
13. Specific documentation of the individual's medical condition, including the fact that he or she is unable to provide a urine specimen, should be obtained and furnished to the employer. The Medical Review Officer (MRO) should, after a thorough examination of the individual's circumstance, notify the employer that the individual cannot provide a urine specimen (DOT 49 CFR Part 40).
For oral fluid testing, a glass of water typically resolves this issue. Should this not be the case, a urine specimen is an alternative that could be provided.
14. A “POSITIVE” determination should only be made after a confirmatory test has been reviewed by a qualified MRO. Testing laboratories use "cutoff limits" to determine the levels at which they report drug concentrations. A "NEGATIVE" determination indicates that the initial specimen was found to have no drug present which is detectable by a screening test.
15. If you're under the jurisdiction of the DOT, it's the DOT. If not, then it's your employer.
16. This is probably the most confusing issue regarding drug testing. Simply put, drug tests are very accurate. During a screening, if the test detects a drug, it is called a non-negative or "presumed" positive. If the drug detected is one you are taking through prescription at your doctor's orders, it is a negative, or negated positive. Some over-the-counter medications will preliminarily test non-negative (positive), but the confirmatory tests will rule out any non-illicit substances. What is generally called a "false" positive is simply a result which has not been confirmed.
17. The MRO shall be a licensed physician with knowledge of substance abuse disorders. Certification programs and seminars are available to physicians who wish to obtain accreditation in this area. The requirements for a DOT certified MRO are clearly expressed in DOT 49 CFR Part 40 subset G.
18. That's a question you have to answer for yourself. But you owe it to yourself, the people who work with you, and the person with the problem to seriously consider discussing it with your supervisor, shop steward or union representative. Whether or not you discuss it with the person who has the problem depends greatly on your relationship with that person, however, most of the time it is not advisable. A person with a serious problem, whether it's drugs or alcohol, usually needs professional help.
19. That depends on your company and its Policies and Procedures. Ask the person in charge of your testing program or consult with the HR department regarding the possible existence of an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which may cover assistance for substance addiction.
20. Study your company's Drug Free Workplace Policies and Procedures carefully.
21. An Employment Assistance Program, or EAP, is a confidential, job-based program that helps to:
- Identify an employee's problems
- Provide short-term counseling
- Provide a referral for treatment
- Provide follow-up services after treatment
22. The false positive rates and false negatives rates for oral fluid screening are not really different from that seen with urine screening. Therefore, there is really no valid rational in using these values as a reason to pick one sample type over another. In many cases the antibodies are the same between oral fluid assays and urine assays so the cross-reactivity profiles are essentially identical.
The ORALscreen is an immunoassay-based drug screen using oral fluid as the specimen type. Technically the result provided is defined as either negative or non-negative. Results should only be considered positive after GC/MS (gas chromatograph / Mass Spectrometer) laboratory confirmation and subsequent appropriate review of the laboratory result by and MRO (medical review officer). False positives are therefore virtually impossible based upon the proven accuracy of GC/MS technology (validated within the U.S. legal system) and the oversight of a qualified MRO.
That being said, taking the definition of false positives as cases in which an on-site screening device indicates a non-negative result, but no drug (s) or metabolites are detected by GS / MS laboratory confirmation techniques, the false positive rate is depends upon the multiple variables however typically ranges from 0.5% to 2%. The cause for false positives as defined in this manner is typically cross-reactive compounds (substances that produce a similar result to the target drug being tested). The most common type instances are prescription medications, some OTC medications, as well as certain food groups.
Furthermore, as noted above, there is a very high correlation between oral fluid and urine sample types, with results being the same in 99.98%.of the instances, as demonstrated by studies conducted by national laboratories.
23. No. Existing data obtained by major US testing labs across large populations indicated that oral testing and urine testing correlate within 0.5% with respect to test positives. In general the number of positives and negatives are similar for both urine and oral fluid. The concentrations of drugs and/or drug metabolites present in saliva are typically lower than those found in urine. Therefore, saliva tests are more sensitive by design.
24. Urine and oral fluid are two very different test vehicles for drug detection. Both are effective for detecting the presence of illegal drugs but with different detection windows and sometimes different target drugs. Oral fluid provides equivalent, and in some cases more appropriate detection windows vs. urine.
NOTE: Oral fluid is well suited for detecting impairment due to drugs of abuse. Urine testing does not detect impairment, however urine is effective in determining historical use.
25. Detection windows vary depending on the analytical method used, drug metabolism, tolerance, fluid intake, and method and frequency of ingestion. Other factors include the amount of drug used, and drug potency. .
*** THC must metabolize then be excreted into the urine before presence can be detected. This can take some time depending on the person’s metabolic rate. Retention times for chronic smokers may be longer.
26. A change of any substance by the deliberate addition of a component not ordinarily part of that substance.
NOTE: Specimen substitution is a form of adulteration.
27. Yes. Urine adulteration is very prevalent, and recognized as a serious issue. Everyday household products can be used to invalidate urine drug test. There are also many commercial products/additives being sold that easily adulterate urine samples. For example, the purchase of drug-free urine has become a common practice.
28. No. There are no confirmed methods that adulterate oral fluid samples. There are only a few commercial products that claim to "fool" an oral fluid based drug test. These products only prevent saliva flow for a short period, and do not actually "change" test results. This simply delays the sample collection process, but does not adulterate the sample. Of course, donors may attempt to introduce something into the sample or collector, but this is highly unlikely as oral fluid collection is directly observed.
29.Typically oral fluid is not designated as a hazardous substance. OSHA, for example does not consider oral fluid collections hazardous. Oral fluid is not subject to the same handling and disposal techniques as other bodily fluids.
NOTE: Oral fluid specimens and all materials coming in contact with them should be handled and disposed of as if infectious and capable of transmitting infection. Avoid contact with skin.