Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing can be a useful tool in managing employees who appear to be  impaired at work. Employers who conduct such testing should:

  • Have a written drug and alcohol testing policy that clearly articulates the types of testing that will be conducted as well as the disciplinary consequences for refusing to test and testing positive;

  • Train managers to understand what constitutes reasonable suspicion. These decisions must be made as soon as possible after the observed behavior so that testing can be conducted in a timely manner. Untrained managers may not know what to do or may wait to take any action;

  • The key issue, as discussed in the case above, is to be able to articulate why the employee’s behavior is “drastically different” today, in comparison to the way the employee typically behaves;

  • Recording the observations at the time the conduct occurs is critical. It is helpful to create reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol test reports and/or checklists to assist with the contemporaneous documentation of the events; and,

  • An employee may provide excuses (such as an underlying medical condition) to avoid testing or disciplinary action. The employer still should proceed with the reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing if there is sufficient basis to do so.