Alcohol and other drug abuse affect the profitability of a company. It impacts absenteeism, tardiness and productivity rates; workman’s compensation claims; and the overall climate of the workplace.

Did you know?:

• 77% of drug abusers are employed. (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

• Substance abusers are 33-50% less productive (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

• Abusers are absent 30-35 days per year and are three times more likely than nonusers to be late for work. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

• Abusers are three to four times more likely to have an accident on the job and five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim. (Employee Assistance Society of North America).

• 21% of employees report being injured or put in danger, having to redo work or cover for another employee, or needing to work harder due to others’ drinking. (JSI Research and Training Institute).

Here is a summary of significant laws that have taken effect in 2020 that might affect your drug and alcohol policy:

Illinois Recreational Marijuana Law: The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The Act allows anyone older than 21 to possess, use or buy marijuana. More significantly, marijuana will be considered a “lawful product” for purposes of the Illinois Right to Privacy Act, which bars discrimination against employees and applicants for using lawful products off-duty and off the employer’s premises.

Although marijuana is considered a “lawful product,” the act expressly permits employers to conduct “reasonable suspicion” and post-accident drug testing for marijuana, in accordance with the requirements of the act.

Specifically, an employer might consider an employee to be impaired or under the influence of cannabis if the employer has a good faith belief that an employee manifests specific, articulable symptoms while working that decrease or lessen the employee’s performance of the duties or tasks of the employee’s job position, including symptoms of the employee’s speech, physical dexterity, agility, coordination, demeanor, irrational or unusual behavior, or negligence or carelessness in operating equipment or machinery; disregard for the safety of the employee or other, or involvement in any accident that results in serious damage to equipment or property; disruption of a production or manufacturing process; or carelessness that results in any injury to the employee or others.

In the event an employer elects to discipline any employee on the basis that the employee is under the influence or impaired by cannabis, the employer must afford the employee a reasonable opportunity to contest the basis of the determination.

Although it initially appeared that the act did not authorize pre-employment marijuana testing or random marijuana testing, the act was amended on Dec. 4, 2019, to permit employers to perform drug testing for marijuana on all of these tests and to take disciplinary action for positive marijuana test results.

FMCSA Clearinghouse: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Clearinghouse became operational on Jan. 6, 2020. FMCSA-covered employers must now use the Clearinghouse to report commercial motor vehicle drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations.

In addition, they must query the clearinghouse for new hires upon hire and annually for current employees. Employers are required to revise their drug and alcohol testing policies to list the drug and alcohol violations that will be reported to the clearinghouse.

Oral Fluid Testing Finally Approved by DHHS: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued its Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs Using Oral Fluid on Oct. 25, 2019.

The guidelines established standards for oral fluid drug testing for federal employees and that took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Since the DOT is required to follow the mandatory guidelines in developing drug testing programs, we expect all of the DOT operating agencies to implement regulations adopting the oral fluid testing guidelines sometime in 2020.

Many employers whom we have discussed this with have stated they eventually might prefer oral fluid drug testing, since it is a quicker process than urine testing, offers less opportunity for the adulteration or substitution of specimens and might also provide more insight into recent drug use.

Tina Wagner, COHPM, MRO-A, is Business Manager at Tri-State Occupational Health in Dubuque.