Workplace drug testing dilemma

What would you do if one of your key employees fails workplace drug testing? Screaming at them probably isn’t the answer! Credit Ilmicrofono Oggiono

If the star of your favourite sporting team got into trouble with the law, would you stand by him or ship him off to another team at the first opportunity? Would it make a difference if it wasn’t one of your stars, and it was a player who generally didn’t play in the senior side?

While we leave you to answer that dilemma, here another quandary you may be able to answer, Actually, if you own a workplace that conducts drug testing, we certainly hope you can. That is, what happens if one of your star employees fails workplace drug testing?

This is a person who you rely on every day. He or she knows the operation more than you do. You rely on their experience, expertise and just plain commonsense and, while you hate to admit it, they’ve probably saved the business on more than one occasion.

However, they’ve failed a random drug test. What do you do?

This might seem like a question that simply doesn’t have an easy answer, however, it actually does. The answer is, do whatever your drug and alcohol management policy says you must do.

If your workplace’s drug and alcohol management policy says anyone who fails drug testing is required to undergo counselling and education, and receive ongoing support, then that’s what you do. If it says the employee will be suspended for two-weeks, after which counselling, education and support begins, then that’s what you do. If your workplace has a zero tolerance policy and anyone who fails drug testing is therefore dismissed, then that, as hard as it is, is what you do.

This dilemma is an excellent example of why you must have a workplace drug and alcohol management policy. Otherwise, how can you be certain what to do in any given situation. You’ll be making decisions based on emotion and at a whim, and that’s always likely to end in disaster. And you could even fall foul of authorities.

Let’s say in this example, your workplace has a policy that details what happens to employees who fail drug testing. There is a rule for first-time offenders and a rule for subsequent offences. You get a tick so far. But this is your star employee and it’s their second offence. You should suspend them for one-month as that’s what the policy says. Instead you give him a wrap over the knuckles and an earful at the end of the day over a beer at the local pub.

What message does this send to the rest of your workforce? What could this one, inconsistent decision mean?

  • Your workplace’s culture is likely to be affected. A business that has one rule for one and another rule for another is likely to have a poor culture and morale.
  • Other employees may not take your drug and alcohol policy seriously. If one person can get away with it, why can’t they? The danger this poses to the safety of the employees and your business can’t be underestimated.
  • If you take action against another employee for failing workplace drug testing, they may use the incident with the star employee as evidence for why they should not have faced consequences.

The message from this hypothetical dilemma is to make sure your workplace has a robust drug and alcohol policy. Review it regularly and provide education to your employees about the major details. And, above, follow the policy to the letter.


What would you do if one of your key employees fails workplace drug testing? Screaming at them probably isn’t the answer! Credit Ilmicrofono Oggiono

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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