Are Companies Still Drug Testing in the Pandemic?

by The True Negative

As we all know, the effects of COVID-19 have been devastating. With the U.S. death toll passing 200,000, we must not forget the high levels of stress the lockdown has caused among the living. 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, alcohol sales have increased by 55%, and depression rates have tripled. From all of this, we shouldn’t be surprised that positive employment drug tests are at the highest they’ve been in 16 years. While some of this has been driven by increased marijuana legalization across states, positive tests for cocaine and methamphetamine are also increasing. With all of the despair, uncertainty, and remote working in the pandemic, are companies still bothering to drug test? In short, likely yes. Below is some additional information to help guide you through the process:

I just got a new job. Will I be asked to take a drug test?
This is the same as it was prior to the pandemic. It depends on the company’s drug testing policy Search the True Negative’s database to find out whether your company of interest drug tests.

I was furloughed and I’m now returning back to work. Will I be asked to take a drug test before I return to work?
This depends on company policy. Companies often refresh their hiring paperwork, such as background checks, if six months have passed since the employee last worked. However, this doesn’t always include drug testing. In fact, it’s against some company’s policies to retest workers without cause. While the level of widespread furloughing that we’re seeing during the pandemic is new, how your company has traditionally treated workers who are returning from a leave of absence should give you a clue. Note that we’re talking here about drug testing as a condition for returning back to work. Once you’re back on the job, if your company performs routine testing or tests based on suspicion, you should expect that to continue once you’re back on the job.

I was laid off but rehired by the same company. Will I be asked to take a drug tested?
Most likely, you will be treated the same way the company treats new hires. If the company drug tests new hires, you will likely be drug tested. Companies typically have a uniform drug testing policy for all new hires. Otherwise, they run the risk of being accused of discrimination if they drug test some new hires and not others.

Are drug screening labs still open?
Yes, most drug screening labs stayed open during state lockdowns since healthcare clinics have been deemed essential businesses. As with other businesses, there may be changes to their day-to-day operations, such as limited appointments, social distancing requirements, mask requirements, and temperature checks.

What if I’m not comfortable going to a drug testing lab?
This depends on whether your employer will consider this as an acceptable excuse. For example, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has guidelines on how this should be handled. In the policies that they have adapted for the pandemic, they state “it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal.” Their updated policy also states that if an employee is either unable to or refuses to take a test, they can’t perform “DOT safety-sensitive functions” since the employee technically hasn’t produced a negative drug test result. DOT guidelines must be followed for companies with employers operating vehicles that are required to register with DOT. If you’re a long-haul truck driver, bus driver, or an operator of a public or commercial vehicle, take a close look at their rules as they apply to you.

As a side note, if you’re not comfortable doing a drug test, check whether COVID tests are actually being done at the location where you will take your drug test. For example, LabCorp has stated that they do not conduct lab tests where they see patients: “LabCorp patient service centers do not collect specimens for the COVID-19 swab test, which is used for individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms or meet the testing criteria established by the CDC. Test specimens for COVID-19 must be collected by a physician or other healthcare provider.”

Quest Diagnostics states “Antibody testing available by appointment; we do not test for active infection (swab) in our Patient Service Centers.” The antibody test would be the test you would get if you were checking to see if you had the virus in the past rather than the test you would get if you were checking to see if you currently have the virus. Therefore, people who think they have COVID probably would not be at a Quest Diagnostics site trying to get a test to confirm that they have it.

How can I find out if a company’s drug testing policy has changed due to COVID?
The most surefire way is to ask. Most companies have a written drug testing policy. The policy should comply with state and local laws, so you can check these laws to have an idea of what employers can legally do. If you work for a federal agency, a company contracted by a federal agency, or a company that follows federal agency regulations (e.g. Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, etc.), then your workplace will follow these guidelines regardless of state law.

The True Negative's plethora of drug testing information is designed to help you find a company that matches your lifestyle. However, it's always possible that you may receive an unexpected drug test. When this is the case, products such as TestClear's proven detox solutions are invaluable in helping you test negative on short notice.

Have you started a new job or returned to work after a break during the pandemic? Share your experiences here.

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