HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Drug Test Consent Form

Alcohol and drug use by employees and on company property can spell trouble for your business. Many employers use testing to limit the negative impact illegal drugs and alcohol can have on their business and to ensure the safety of their employees and clients.

Before you wade into the testing waters, there is a lot to consider when it comes to testing requirements and consent. This article covers the when, why, and how of drug test consent forms.
A drug test consent form is the document you must present to an employee or prospective employee in advance to test for illegal drugs and alcohol. When an individual signs the form, it allows a healthcare worker to obtain a sample from them and a lab to share those results with you. Gaining consent protects you against legal action and criminal charges. There are several different kinds of drug testing situations, but you can create a form or two that works for most situations. These are the most common scenarios for drug testing:
  • Pre-employment drug screening
  • Regularly scheduled drug tests for employees
  • One-time incident drug testing
  • Random drug test for employees
Consenting to a drug test can feel awkward and invasive, even with the best intentions. When getting employee consent and requesting drug testing, use discretion and consistent practices to improve employee and applicant confidence. Send out and collect signatures on important documents like this with Eddy People!
Many employers make a pre-employment drug screening part of their hiring process. It’s still important to consider the effectiveness and necessity of pre-screening candidates for your business. You can pre-screen candidates for illegal drugs and alcohol, but you should wait until a job offer has been made and accepted. Federal, state, local, or licensing mandates may require that you regularly or randomly test your employees. If this is the case, you’ll want to get signed consent forms at the beginning of employment to make the process easier for everyone.
The easy answer as to when to use a drug test consent form is to use one any time you intend to screen employees or prospective employees for drugs or alcohol. To help you understand better which scenarios call for a screening, consider these situations:
  • Employment screening of a new hire. You can pre-screen candidates for drug use, but it’s best to wait until a job offer is made and accepted. It’s also best to indicate in advance, either on your website, application, or in the interview process, that all offers are contingent on passing a drug test.
  • Screening after a workplace complaint. If an employee shows signs of slurred speech, erratic behavior, or anything else that might signal they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should consider a drug test. If you do not already have a standing consent form, get the employee’s signed consent to test for drugs or alcohol.
  • Screening after a workplace accident. When a workplace incident occurs, and employee conduct is under scrutiny, it may warrant getting a drug test consent form to determine if drugs or alcohol played a factor in the incident.
You should not get a signed drug test consent form if you have no immediate need to screen the individual. Despite their prevalence in the workplace, a consent form of this nature creates awkwardness and an air of distrust that is best to avoid whenever possible.
  • Pre-employment screening of an applicant. Even though it’s permissible to screen your new hires before they begin work, you should not drug test applicants in the interview process. A drug test consent form should not be a part of your employment application.
  • Screening select employees or prospective employees. You should not use a drug test consent form for certain employees or candidates for a position. A selective screening process puts certain people at an unnecessary disadvantage and, in some cases, presents an illegal form of discrimination.
  • “Just in case.” You may think it's best to have a drug test consent form on file for all employees “just in case,” but the precaution is not worth the administrative effort or feelings of distrust it creates. Present your employees with a consent form only when necessary.
Knowing when you plan to conduct drug and alcohol testing for employees is the first step to creating an effective consent form. There are four main elements to a drug test consent form.

Step 1: Authorization

In the first section of the drug test consent form, your employee must authorize the laboratory or healthcare worker to take a specimen (hair, urine, blood, etc.) for testing purposes.

Step 2: Disclosure

Secondly, the employee must agree to allow the laboratory to disclose the results of the drug and alcohol test to you as the current or prospective employer and any government entity involved.

Step 3: Release

Next, the consent form should require the employee to release your company and the laboratory from any legal action following the results of the drug test.

Step 4: Signature

Finally, the drug test consent form must have a signature line for the employee to sign and date the form acknowledging their voluntary consent clearly. An unsigned form is useless.
A drug test consent form does not have to be lengthy or unnecessarily complicated. With the correct elements and language, you can easily keep the document to one page. Below is a template you can adjust for your company’s use. Drug Test Consent Form Template

Drug Test Laws

Before having an employee take a drug test, it’s important to make sure your company is following the federal and state laws involved. Below, we’ll go over some of the most relevant federal drug test laws, as well as some tips for staying informed on state-specific laws.

Federal Laws

On the federal level, there are a few important laws that relate to drug testing. First, organizations associated with the Department of Transportation (DOT) each have strict drug test laws. If you work in the transportation industry, you’ll want to become familiar with the laws that apply to your organization. These organizations include:
  • FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)
  • PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration)
  • FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
  • FRA (Federal Railroad Administration)
  • FTA (Federal Transit Administration)
In addition to DOT laws, here are a few other federal laws that involve or may relate to drug testing:
  • ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). In general, this law prohibits companies from discriminating against those with a physical disability. When it comes to drug tests, the law ensures that employers cannot discriminate against those who are recovering from and/or seeking treatment for substance abuse problems.
  • FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act). The Fair Credit Reporting act states that employers need written consent from employees before obtaining a consumer report (often referred to as a background check) on them. Consumer reports often include the results of prior drug tests. If you use a consumer report in hopes of finding someone’s drug test results, you need to comply with the FCRA’s requirements.
  • OSHA Regulations (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA is a federal agency meant to protect workers’ safety. Recently, OSHA clarified that requiring a drug test after a workplace accident is permissible, but only if it’s to find the root cause of a safety issue. Employers who require drug tests simply for retaliatory purposes could get in trouble.
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This law protects privacy by limiting how and when patients’ medical information can be shared.

State Laws

Each state has different laws about drug testing, so the best way to learn about the laws in your state is to do some research. The following document is a great place to begin. It provides a basic overview of each state’s drug test laws and associated requirements, including who is eligible to be tested and what conditions must be met. State Drug Test Laws

Common Drugs Companies Test For

According to HR manager Samantha Kiper, a typical 5 panel drug test includes THC, opiates, PCP, cocaine, and amphetamines. She says that while “general drug tests can go up to 17 substances . . . the 5 panel is most common.” Let’s take a closer look at the five drugs that employers test for most often.
  • THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the drug found in the marijuana plant. Although some states have legalized marijuana, employers in those states may still test for THC. As HR professional Sarah Marchese points out, "[Even if] THC is legal in a state, there are still positions wherein use can still be considered a hard no. Positions that require operation of a company vehicle are an example."
  • Opiates. While there are illegal opiates—such as heroin—some opiates are also used legally as pain relievers.
  • PCP. Phencyclidine, or PHP, is a synthetic substance that comes in several forms. While it can be used as an animal tranquilizer, it’s not legal for human use.
  • Cocaine. Cocaine is a stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant.
  • Amphetamines. Like cocaine, amphetamines are stimulants. Often found in drugs like Adderall, they help with focus and alertness. Though amphetamines may be prescribed, they’re illegal for recreational use.
Amanda Davis

Amanda Davis

Amanda has spent over 10 years building a career in Human Resources in the non-profit sector. Her roles have included HR assistant, recruitment and onboarding coordinator, and manager of learning and professional development. Although Amanda enjoys her time as an HR consultant now, she prefers to use her experience to strengthen the field through the education and development of its practitioners.
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