As the United States struggles through a labor shortage crisis, adjusting pre-employment drug testing requirements may help support the nation’s workforce.
For decades, pre-employment drug tests were a standard procedure involved in the onboarding process for new employees. However, in our post-pandemic world, pre-employment drug testing policies are changing across the United States. This is due to the fact that nowadays, workers have more employment options available to them. Just as a worker may choose a job closer to their home or with more flexible hours, a job without pre-employment drug testing procedures may be more attractive to them. With the Great Resignation in full swing since the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, more and more employers are going to great lengths to make their positions appealing to workers, including forgoing pre-employment drug tests.
4 Reasons Why Employers are Shifting Away from Pre-employment Drug Tests
So why are some companies choosing not to require pre-employment drug testing for their new workers? This stems in part from the fact that the Great Resignation and the COVID-19 pandemic have left the United States amid a labor shortage crisis. This labor shortage crisis is a complex situation with various accelerating factors in addition to the pandemic and the Great Resignation.
One contributing factor to the labor shortage crisis is the immigration shortage, which has decreased the number of workers looking for jobs in the country. According to a current population survey, the U.S. workforce today has 2 million fewer immigrants than it would have if immigration had continued at pre-pandemic levels. This means fewer individuals are available to work, which has led to labor shortages in low-paying industries like hospitality staffing.
Another factor would be workers’ aversion to jobs requiring rigorous drug testing. With more employers fighting over limited workers, workers can choose against taking jobs that involve a rigorous pre-employment drug-testing process. A survey released by Current Consulting Group found that 36 percent of poll respondents planning to remove marijuana from their testing panels were doing so because they were “experiencing delays and/or cannot fill positions due to high marijuana positives.”
Businesses are Seeing Low Application Rates
Because of the labor shortage, many businesses have seen a lower number of application rates for their open positions. One reason for this could be because of their pre-employment drug testing. Prospective workers that could potentially fail a drug test are unlikely to apply to jobs that require drug testing. According to statistics, 20% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 have used illegal drugs or abused prescription drugs in the last year. This means that this large portion of the workforce would likely decide against applying to work for companies that conduct a mandatory pre-employment drug test, which can explain dwindling application rates for these companies.
Applicants are Hesitant to Apply When Drug Tests are Required
Even if a worker does not use drugs, they may still feel hesitant to apply for a position that requires pre-employment drug testing. Even though HIPAA healthcare privacy laws do not apply to drug testing, this can still feel like a deeply personal act. Additionally, such policies may be risky for certain individuals. Many factors can cause a person to fail a urine test or blood test even if they have not abused any illegal substances and legally have a prescription. Examples of this would be eating poppy seeds, taking ibuprofen, using legally obtained prescriptions for healthcare reasons, or ingesting THC through second-hand smoke. Therefore, many workers may decide against the risk of applying for a position where they might become accidentally flagged for drug use.
States That Legalized Recreational Marijuana Use Are Removing Drug Test Policies
Another reason that companies may be forgoing their pre-employment drug testing policies would be based on the drug laws within their location. For example, some states have legalized recreational marijuana use, influencing hiring businesses to reconsider their hiring policies. Seeing as though recreational marijuana use is legal within certain areas, it makes sense that the businesses there would be less inclined to conduct THC drug screenings on potential workers who recreationally use the substance, as they would still be in compliance with the law, in addition to those with prescriptions.
Drug Test Manufacturers and Providers Closed Down During the Pandemic
As previously mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the ways that the world works and influenced the job market as a result. However, COVID-19 also created issues that made pre-employment drug tests harder to manufacture and obtain from providers. The Current Consulting Group released survey results in August 2020, which showed that nearly 60% of drug testing providers indicated that the total number of drug tests sold or processed by their company was down 41% or more since the pandemic’s beginning. With providers administering fewer tests for employing businesses to drug screen their workers, employers have had no choice but to reconsider their drug testing practices.
How Are Business Owners Shifting Away from Drug Test Policies?
In response to the abovementioned factors, many business owners have chosen to shift away from traditional drug testing policies. Primarily, more and more employers have been reconsidering recreational marijuana use as a disqualifier for employment. Instead, some employers would prefer to maintain the other drug panels within pre-employment drug tests. On the other hand, some employers and business owners who drug test for employment are considering removing the pre-employment drug tests altogether. Instead, many of these employers choose to attract applicants to their open positions by adding “No Drug Test” or similar statements to their job posts. Since most individuals would rather avoid the drug testing process regardless of the reason, informing workers upfront about the lack of mandatory drug testing is being used as an advertising tactic by hiring employers to draw in potential candidates.
How Current Laws On Employment Drug Testing Affects Businesses
Regardless of an employer’s feelings regarding pre-employment drug testing, many businesses must remain in compliance with federal laws, as they can affect the changes employers want to make regarding drug tests. Some states require employers to conduct drug testing depending on the position. For example, in Delaware, testing is required to certify school bus drivers and for security-sensitive positions with the Department of Corrections. In addition, pre-employment drug testing laws can affect employers falling under a variety of situations. For example, the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 states that any employer receiving federal grants or contracts must be drug-free or risk losing federal funding. These are just some ways that current laws on employment drug testing affect businesses that must remain in compliance with them.
Possible Effects of the New Drug Testing Policies for Employees
So what can employees expect in a world with new pre-employment drug testing policies?
Many individuals wish to change drug testing policies due to their being discriminatory. This claim is based on the unfair repercussions between people of color and white people who fail drug tests. According to a 2018 survey of over 1,500 Americans conducted by Detox.net, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Black people were over twice as likely to face repercussions for failing a drug test than white people. Therefore easing or abolishing pre-employment drug testing policies could result in more workers feeling comfortable applying to jobs without worrying about their ethnic background influencing their chances at employment.
However, some believe changing pre-employment drug screening policies could be risky for workers. Some employers believe that removing marijuana testing could lead to workers being impaired by the substance while working, creating dangerous situations on the job. According to a First Advantage customer survey, a 15 percent decrease in drug testing from 2019 to 2020 for First Advantage clients resulted in 17 percent higher post-accident positivity rates across all industries. Therefore, some believe drug testing can mitigate on-the-job substance abuse and lower the risks of workplace accidents.
Pre Employment Drug Testing Laws by State (2022)
Now in 2022, we cannot see the future of how pre-employment drug test laws will change. However, current pre-employment drug testing laws vary by state. Below is a chart that describes the drug testing laws and compliance information by each state, as provided by: https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/articles/pre-employment-drug-testing-laws-by-state/
State-by-State Pre-Employment Drug Testing Laws
Is Your Business Affected by the Labor Shortage and Current Drug Policies?
Adia can make a difference if your business or organization has been affected by the labor shortage and current drug policies. Adia’s on-demand staffing platform is a service that matches open positions with pre-vetted, qualified workers in their area. So whether you are looking for warehouse staffing solutions or event staff members, our platform can help you onboard no matter your industry. At Adia, we can connect you with hard-working individuals that can help with your staffing needs and qualify for your employment standards. Visit us at the following links to learn more!