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Pre-Employment Drug Screening: The Pros & Cons

written by: Tess C. Taylor, HR Expert•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 3/20/2011

Drug use by employees costs employers millions every year, so is it worth it to have a formal drug test for all new hires? Here's what you need to know about the pros and cons of a pre-employment drug screening program.

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    Pre Employment Drug Testing With the move toward creating safer, drug-free workplaces, there is a trend toward more employee pre employment drug screening programs in workplaces around the globe. In addition to pre-employment drug tests and background screening, many employers are requiring random drug testing of employees. From outsourced drug screen companies to onsite drug testing administrators within organizations, drug testing has become a critical step in the new hire process.

    As with any employment practice that can potentially reveal employees’ personal lives, pre-employment drug testing has both its pros and cons. Read on to learn more about why pre employment drug testing works and why it can sometimes be a negative practice.

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    Explaining the Pros of Pre-Employment Drug Testing

    The most obvious benefit of using pre-employment drug testing as part of the hiring process is to prevent the hiring of illegal drug users. Street drugs like cocaine, marijuana and crack have invaded much of Western society, and this affects millions of people in a negative way. Drug-related accidents and lost income due to employee drug use can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in a year.

    Candidates who find out they will be tested for drugs may choose to decline a job offer, which can save an employer time and money upfront. While there are some who will try to trick the system, this number will be low. Pre-employment drug testing eliminates the potential of bringing on workers who engage in illegal drug use.

    Another pro of pre-employment drug screening is that it indirectly reduces the costs associated with employer-sponsored benefits. Drug-related illnesses and treatments can drive up the costs of medical benefits over time. By placing emphasis on a drug-free workplace and making random and pre-employment drug testing mandatory, your company can reduce many of these costs.

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    Unexpected Cons of Pre-Employment Drug Testing

    Despite employee pre-employment drug screening’s many benefits, there are some surprising negatives that are worth mentioning. Pre-employment drug testing is designed to prevent the hiring of the wrong candidates, but what happens when this practice backfires? Here are some cons to ponder.

    Although pre employment drug testing is accurate the majority of the time, there can be false positive results found in non-drug users. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as natural herbal supplements and even some foods, contain chemicals that mimic street drugs in the urine. Candidates can inadvertedly test positive for the presence of drugs in their system when in fact they are not engaged in any drug activity. Employers are then forced to decide if they wish to pay for another drug test, a more expensive blood test or face possible discrimination charges from the candidate.

    In addition to false positives, when pre-employment drug tests are conducted by an onsite administrator, these tests may not meet federal drug testing guidelines. Tests may be faulty or of poor quality, giving false positive results and creating a liability situation for employers. It’s important to use an independent pre-employment drug testing lab to avoid these common pitfalls.

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    References and Photo Credit

    References

    Zezima, Katie & Goodnough, Abby, "Drug Testing Poses Quandry for Employers", New York Times, October 2010

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/25/us/25drugs.html?_r=2

    Sample, Barry, "Drug Tests: Know the Basics", Nashville Business Journal, August 2009

    http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2009/08/31/focus4.html

    Photo Credit

    Used with permission from http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/718592