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Ask the Hotline | The Drug-Free Workplace Act

August 13, 2019
We are exploring a drug-free workplace policy. In doing my research I came across the federal drug-free workplace act. Can you tell me more about the law and what it requires? 
Employers sometimes use the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act as a justification or framework to establish a drug-testing policy. But the truth is that only a subset of U.S. employers is actually subject to that law. 
The 1988 law only applies to federal grant recipients and federal contractors with at least a single contract worth more than $100,000. The law requires covered employers to: 
  • adopt a drug-free workplace policy; and
  • establish a drug-free awareness program.
The policy must include a statement that the employer prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of a controlled substance in the workplace and it must specify the disciplinary actions to be taken against employees who violate the policy.
The policy must also include language informing employees covered by the grant or contract that they must:
  • abide by the above prohibitions; and
  • notify the employer within five days after the employee is convicted of violating a criminal drug statute for conduct occurring in the workplace.
If an employee notifies a covered employer that s/he has been convicted of a criminal drug violation occurring in the workplace, the employer must notify the granting or contracting agency within 10 days.
The employer must also impose some sanction on the employee. This can include completion of a drug-abuse assistance rehabilitation program.
A company must also establish a drug-free awareness program. The program must inform employees about:
  • the dangers of drug abuse in the workplace;
  • the organization’s policy of maintaining a drug-free workplace;
  • available drug counseling, rehabilitation, and employee assistance programs; and
  • the penalties that may be imposed on employees for drug abuse violations.
Covered entities that violate the Drug-Free Workplace Act could lose contracts/grants or related payments and/or be barred from receiving new grants or contracts for up to five years.
The law does not apply to employers that don’t have qualifying federal grants or contracts. It also doesn’t require any employees to report drug use or even most drug-related criminal convictions, only the reporting of convictions for incidents that occurred at work.
It does not require employers to use drug testing, but an employer may voluntarily establish a drug testing policy. 
Drug-Testing Policy 
So, most companies without federal contracts are not subject to the Drug-Free Workplace Act and have the option to establish a drug-free workplace policy. A company may consider the following questions:
  • Do we need a drug-testing policy? 
  • If so, should we create a drug-free workplace policy? 
  • If so, what should it look like? 
AIM HR Solutions can help members with questions about developing a drug testing policy. 
AIM members with questions about this or any other HR-related issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.
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