Guide to Pre-Employment Drug Testing

The Legalities of Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Private companies are not required to conduct pre-employment drug testing. Some refer to the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, which allows employers to take action against workplace drug use. Other industries, meanwhile, follow the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. It states that truck drivers, machinery workers, and transportation workers should test negative for drugs before they can start working. 

It is required for federal contractors, grantees, and those who will work in the safety/security sector. They are covered by EO 12564, which requires all federal employees to refrain from drug usage - whether on duty or not.

Why Do Some Companies Require Pre-Employment Drug Testing? 

Apart from the fact that certain laws require it, some companies opt to do drug testing because of how substance use affects the workforce.

According to a SAMHSA report, employee alcohol and drug can lead to:

  • Illnesses, injuries, and accidents
  • Diminished productivity
  • Absenteeism
  • Low morale

When Does Pre-Employment Drug Testing Take Place?

The test is often done after a conditional job offer is received. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the potential hire should complete the test within 24 hours of receiving the offer, timing may vary according to the company or industry. 

What Substances Do Employers Check?

Companies most often test the sample for the presence of these five substances:

  1. Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  2. Cocaine
  3. Marijuana
  4. Opiates (such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Heroin)
  5. Phencyclidine

Note: Although marijuana is legalized in some states, it’s still a Schedule 1 narcotic deemed illegal under federal ruling. If you are hired by the federal government or the Department of Transportation, any marijuana use might make you ineligible for the job.

Preparing for Pre-Employment Drug Testing

These drugs can stay in your system for the following amount of time

  • Amphetamine or methamphetamines: 2-4 days
  • Cocaine: 1-3 days
  • Marijuana: 2-90+ days
  • Opiates: 1-3 days
  • Phencyclidine: 2-7 days for acute use, up to 30 days for chronic use

What You Need to Do During Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Pre-employment drug testing is often done in an independent medical laboratory. Here’s what you typically need to do once you’re there:

  1. Fill out the necessary forms. Make sure to list all the medications or substances you have taken in the last few days/weeks.
  2. Collect a sample in the provided cup. Urine is usually required; though saliva, hair, or blood may also be obtained. As for the standard urine test, you need a 10 to 30-ml sample volume.
  3. Submit the specimen. 
  4. Wait for the results.

Who Pays for the Pre-Employment Drug Testing?

The company will pay for the initial test and the confirmatory gas chromatography exam if the latter is deemed necessary. 

What Happens if Your Pre-Employment Drug Test Comes Back Positive?

The laboratory will run a gas chromatography test to further confirm the initial examination. This testing method detects below the initial pre-screening levels and tests for adulterants. Read more here (link to article about the differences in testing). 

Products to Use Prior to a Workplace Test

Need help determining which test is right for you? We are happy to help! 


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