Pennsylvania unemployment compensation law considers an employee’s refusal to submit to a drug test or a failed test grounds for denial of benefits without the employer having the additional burden of proving “willful misconduct.” However, to avail itself of the relaxed standard, the employer must adopt a drug testing policy that is not in violation of law or a collective bargaining agreement. The employer must communicate the policy to its employees and comply with the policy.
Simply putting a paragraph in a handbook that advises employees they may be asked to submit to a drug test is not enough. Careful consideration must be given to when a drug test may be appropriate. Upon hire? After an accident? Upon reasonable suspicion that a person may be under the influence of a controlled substance? Should the employer implement random testing for all employees in safety sensitive positions? These are all important considerations that should be resolved before a policy is drafted. Drug testing policies should be tailored to the needs of the employer. An insurance agency with mostly clerical staff, for example, will not require as onerous a policy as a trucking company.
Once an employer decides when to test, it must also consider the manner and method for testing. Many employers contract with local clinics to conduct drug testing and often forget to inform the employees in the policy what to expect when they get there. There are a variety of tests and collection methods. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Transportation both have manuals on drug testing that provide useful information to consider when drafting a policy and can be found on the agency websites. An employer need not adopt a policy that meets stringent HHS or DOT guidelines. However, a policy should inform employees under what circumstances they may be tested, what will happen when they are tested, and the consequences of a refusal to test or a failed test. Consultation with our office and medical professionals experienced in drug testing and sample collection prior to implementation of a drug testing program will enable an employee drug testing program to work effectively and withstand legal challenges.
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