With many companies electing to allow employees to work remotely during the pandemic, businesses are interested in the best methods of drug testing remote employees. Fortunately there are several options available for drug testing remote employees depending on your company’s specific situation.
Have Remote Employees Report to The Office for Drug Testing
The easiest method of drug testing remote employees is to have those employees come in for staff meetings or performance reviews on a regular basis. You can select employees to be randomly tested at their next meeting or call employees at random.
The primary benefit of having your employees report the office is that you do not have to change your drug testing regimen if you were drug testing on site before the pandemic.
One drawback is that once an employee has been made aware of their next appointment they can prepare to possibly be drug tested. Most people that use drugs are aware of drug testing procedures and they will be suspicious about any request to report to the office whether you mention a drug test or not.
If a company’s workforce is local to the business location and there is a skeleton staff still at the office this is by far the easiest, cheapest and most convenient option.
Since multiple employees will be entering your building you will need to escalate sterilization practices and institute procedures to safeguard everyone from viral infections.
This will include measures like taking everyone’s temperature, mandating protective equipment, having everyone use hand sanitizer, keeping an appropriate distance between employees and possibly installing sneeze guards in rooms where an employee reporting for drug testing will interact with the employee administering the test.
Keep employees exposure limited with an efficient process and sterilizing areas that could possibly be infected between appointments.
Outsource Drug Testing to a Local Laboratory or Drug Testing Company
Another option that could work well if to temporarily outsource drug testing to a third party. Employees could be notified by phone and given a set time limit to report to the lab for testing.
Some benefits of outsourcing is that a company specializing in drug testing will have more experience administering drug tests. They may catch more people trying to cheat, they will be liable for any legal issues and it removes any question of an employee of your company showing favoritism to others.
The primary drawback of outsourcing your drug testing is the cost. It can cost 10x-100x more per employee for a drug testing company or lab to administer testing. In addition to the cost drug testing facilities are prone to corruption.
In March of this year a supervisor at a drug testing facility in Las Vegas was charged with accepting bribes from federal probationers in exchange for concealing their positive and missed drug tests. The employee, Billy Joe West, plead guilty in June. In December of 2018 a drug tester in Waldorf Maryland was charged with similar crimes after accepting a bribe during an undercover sting.
Corruption in drug testing companies is rarely investigated and employees are often paid low wages. If employees that have the responsibility of testing federal parolees are so easily coerced, how easy would it be to bribe an employee that is handling employment tests?
You can always switch back in an in house drug testing program after the pandemic subsides and it could be helpful to have this option as a backup for any future issues.
Test Patients During Telehealth Screenings
One of the more adaptive clinicians we have spoken with, George L. Swanberg, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner, and the Executive Director of Life Line Counseling Center in Warrenton Virginia, has developed a procedure for alcohol testing through Zoom meetings.
Using Alco-Screen strips and observing the patient closely he has them follow these instructions:
- In view of the camera the client rips open the packet, removes the strip, and shows me the beige end.
- Then, I watch him/her put it on the saliva laden tongue for about 30 sec.
- Then they remove it and show it to the camera for about 30+ seconds.
Very important: I then have them place a drop of alcohol hand sanitizer on the pad and show it to me.
If it turns green I’ve not only tested the client but tested the veracity of the test so I know they did not defeat the enzyme process by sticking it in the microwave or through another method first.
COVID restrictions have allowed practitioners leeway in how they handle screening. It is better to develop some sort of testing guidelines than to suspend testing entirely. It is up to clinicians to set their own precedents and develop their own procedures when operating under undocumented circumstances.
DNA Verified Samples
A technology that isn’t well known in the drug testing industry is using DNA verification for laboratory samples. This would be an interesting option for companies that have remote employees scattered across the country.
The company mails the employee their urine screen with directions and the employee provides the sample at their convenience and ships it to the laboratory. An express shipping option with signature confirmation is used to strengthen the chain of custody.
The laboratory uses a one time mouth swab in combination with a sealed urine cup and can match the urine sample to the employee that is supposed to be the donor. The gas chromatography confirmation techniques used would be adjusted to specifically look for any type of adulteration as well.
Gentox lab’s NextGenUDT product is one of many DNA confirmation products available in the United States. Gentox’s CEO claims that their DNA verification definitively authenticates samples, reveals mislabeling errors, and detects urine sample substitutions.
The major drawback to this type of testing is the cost. DNA verification in addition to even the most basic laboratory test drug test would be much more expensive than an internal drug testing program. However this is an elegant solution and for some companies the benefit will justify the cost.
The benefits are that a licensed lab will be conducting the most thorough lab testing available, it would be very convenient for your employees and it reduces the risk of adulteration through substitution.
Suspend Your Drug Testing Program for a Short Time
Federal regulatory agencies have given businesses more leeway with meeting their guidelines due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic. Many doctors offices have been allowed to schedule patients for telemedicine appointments and courts have even postponed trials.
You could contact your lawyer and ask about how a temporary suspension of your drug testing policy would affect your legal responsibilities. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has published guidelines for the unique considerations medical professionals are facing during this time.
Always consult a legal professional before taking any action that could affect your business’s adherence to your drug free workplace policy. You could be held liable down the road and even an act of God like a pandemic may not be a good enough excuse.