By Sharon Bottcher, Policy Director, Current Consulting Group, LLC

A cookie cutter is a tool used for cutting cookies into a particular shape before you bake them. The term “cookie cutter” can be used to describe anything that is mass produced quickly and of low quality. The end result is predicable, recycled and identical. A design used over and over again, with no originality.

Establishing clear-cut polices can help companies manage and maintain an effective drug testing program. Drug testing policies outline the rules and procedures for conducting a drug-free workplace program. Building a cookie cutter policy into your company testing program involves designing guidelines that will most likely not benefit your company’s testing program and has proven drawbacks, including liability concerns.

The Importance of a Custom Drug Testing Policy

Instituting and enforcing policies and procedures can help prevent legal problems, including compliance issues, which limits the company’s liability. The written testing requirements related to compliance with applicable drug testing laws assists companies in managing the program, and helps employees understand the drug testing rules that apply to them.

A comprehensive policy accomplishes several critical objectives which may vary from company to company, and the outcome of each objective will be different based on the goals the company wants to achieve. Some important factors of a custom drug testing policy include:

  • A purpose statement that explains why the company is conducting drug testing and the anticipated benefits. Often, when employees understand the benefits and purposes for implementing a testing program, they are more likely to see the value added, and support the program.
  • A statement that explains who in the company is subject to testing and how the testing will be conducted. This will eliminate the excuse of “I didn’t understand,” and allows the employee to adapt to the content applicable to them. It can be reassuring to know how the process works, and that the tests are performed with the utmost regard to confidentiality and integrity.
  • A statement that identifies the drug testing rules and the expectations of the employee, and that the policy provides guidance on the drug testing rules and legal requirements. The rules will help employees know what is expected of them and allows them to be in complete compliance with the policy.
  • A consequences section establishes parameters for all employees, including management, by explaining behaviors that may result in adverse employment action. In some cases, policy violations may results in immediate termination.  Employees need to be aware of all of the possible outcomes for non-compliance.
  • A comprehensive, customized policy provides legal protection for both the company and the employees. If a drug test is challenged, the policy will protect against liability, as it outlines the applicable drug testing rules to show that compliance with state and federal laws were incorporated into the testing program.

Why Update a Policy

A company policy can quickly become out-of-date because it can be difficult to keep up with the changes in drug testing trends, industry standards, and federal or state drug testing laws. For these reasons and others, it is wise to evaluate your testing program at least annually to ensure it is still helping your company meet its drug testing objectives. If not, changes may be needed. For instance, do you need to add random testing or adjust your random testing frequency rate? Is there an alternative testing methodology worth considering to enhance your testing program? Perhaps the company’s goals, objectives, and operational needs have shifted, which may necessitate a policy change to align with the company’s mission.

Just like any process you implement to enhance efficiency or reduce compliance risk, it is important to revisit it periodically to determine if it remains as effective as when first applied. Evaluating your current process and understanding drug testing best practices can reduce the risk of adding a drug-abusing employee to your team.

Make it a routine to regularly review your policy and the company’s testing program objectives. Policy maintenance should be assigned to an individual or department. Identifying an owner to this project will make your investment in the drug testing program a more rewarding effort.

How to Update a Policy

The first step for updating a policy is to review the company’s drug testing objectives. In other words, what does the company hope to achieve by revising the existing drug testing policy, or creating a new policy? Have the company objectives changed from the initial roll out of the policy? Has your company expanded to different states, or added employees regulated under the Department of Transportation? Are you now interested in developing a policy that allows an employer to receive a discount on workers’ compensation premiums, or to deny unemployment and/or workers’ compensation claims in accordance with a state law?

Once the objectives are identified, all applicable state laws and federal regulations should be considered. If company polices have not been reviewed in a few years, most often companies will elect to start from scratch and create an all-new policy. Whether you choose to write a new policy or update an existing policy, consider the following:

1. New Policy: Routinely, when a company decides to create a new policy, it is due to the condition of the existing policy. The required modifications should be significant enough that a rewrite would be warranted. Typically, the new policy will start with a standard policy that includes, but is not limited to, the following key policy components:

  • Purpose Statement (why drug testing and the anticipated benefits)
  • Coverage (who will be subject to testing)
  • Drug and Alcohol Test Types (the circumstances that will trigger a drug test)
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing Procedures (how drug testing will be conducted)
  • Prohibited Conduct (behaviors considered violations of the policy)
  • Consequences (possible adverse employment actions)

Upon identifying your company’s unique program details, it is all incorporated into the standard policy document to create a customized core policy that aligns with your business needs, policy goals, and company culture. Once the “core” policy is established, the legal requirements for each state that differ from the main content found in the “core” policy can be added.

The legal requirements for each state can be included to create individual state policies, or the language can be added as an addendum to the core policy. If the latter, the policy and the applicable state addendum can be provided only to employees affected by the addendum.

2. Policy Review: A company will typically choose a review of an existing policy when the policy was recently created or updated and there limited modifications are required.

A policy review will start by evaluating the current policy. A comprehensive section-by-section review is conducted resulting in practical suggestions to update the policy. A typical review process should include:

  • Written evaluation with line-by-line recommendations
  • State-by-state requirements outlined for all applicable states
  • Updated federal drug and alcohol testing requirements highlighted as needed
  • Policy strengths and weaknesses should be highlighted throughout
  • Missing policy components should be explained in detail

In the same way a “new policy” will include all relevant information for compliance, a policy review should as well, but the company will be required to insert the appropriate updates and changes as deemed necessary.

3. Policy Addendum: A policy addendum is the best option when only minor changes are required. An addendum is an attachment to the policy that changes the original policy conditions, either to include or exclude coverage. The addendum becomes part of the policy, and its purpose is to modify, clarify, or nullify a portion of the original policy without having to rewrite the policy entirely. The language outlined in the addendum will control the language in the original base policy.

© 2020 The Current Consulting Group, LLC. No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC.

TruView is a proud partner with the Current Consulting Group, LLC.  To create or update your compliant drug screening, contact us today! Call Nicholas M. Auletta, President, at (516) 289-0273 or, or leave a message for us on the TruView website.

SAVE THE DATE! Don’t forget to sign up for the Current Consulting Group’s FREE WEBINAR, hosted by TruView, on How to Develop Compliant, Effective Drug Screening Policies, on February 18, 2020! CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS!