Why do employers require drug testing?

The State of Florida has a strong interest in promoting a safe environment in workplace within the state. Workers who may be intoxicated not only present a hazard to themselves based upon their diminished capacity when intoxicated, they also present a real danger to other worker’s that may be around them when those workers are in an intoxicated condition. The likelihood of workers having work related, or industrial, accidents logically can increase as a result of intoxicated workers, resulting in a greater frequency of work related accidents and corresponding work related injuries. To that end, the Florida Legislature has enacted laws that restrict the benefits an injured worker may receive as a result of being under the influence of alcohol and drugs while engaged in work activities, and have provided incentives to employers who have policies to keep workplaces drug free.

Florida Statute 440.101 lays out the legislative intent of maintaining drug-free workplaces. The legislature believes that drug free workplaces promote an “opportunity to maximize employee levels of productivity, enhance their competitive positions in the marketplace, and reach their desired levels of success without experiencing the costs, delays, and tragedies associated with work-related accidents resulting from drug abuse by employees. It is further the intent of the Legislature that drug abuse be discouraged and that employees who choose to engage in drug abuse face the risk of unemployment and the forfeiture of workers’ compensation benefits”.

The Statute further holds that “If an employer implements a drug-free workplace program in accordance with s. 440.102 which includes notice, education, and procedural requirements for testing for drugs and alcohol pursuant to law or to rules developed by the Agency for Health Care Administration, the employer may require the employee to submit to a test for the presence of drugs or alcohol and, if a drug or alcohol is found to be present in the employee’s system at a level prescribed by rule adopted pursuant to this act, the employee may be terminated and forfeits his or her eligibility for medical and indemnity benefits. However, a drug-free workplace program must require the employer to notify all employees that it is a condition of employment for an employee to refrain from reporting to work or working with the presence of drugs or alcohol in his or her body and, if an injured employee refuses to submit to a test for drugs or alcohol, the employee forfeits eligibility for medical and indemnity benefits.”

To put this all in a simpler context, an employer has the right to require an employee to submit to a pre-employment drug test, and those results can be the basis for a lawful refusal of employment based upon a positive testing result for controlled substances. Furthermore, if an employee is involved in an industrial accident, the employer is empowered to require the injured employee submit to a drug and/or alcohol test and, if the employee tests positive for controlled substances and/or excessive alcohol, or the employee refuses to submit to the test, the employer has the right to terminate the employee and deny that employee his or her eligibility for medical and indemnity benefits. The above rights to terminate and /or deny benefits may only be exercised if the employee had actual or constructive knowledge of the employer’s drug free workplace policy.

As an incentive to the employer to promote drug free workplaces, the legislature enacted Florida Statute 627.0915, which provides “ rating plans for workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance that give specific identifiable consideration in the setting of rates to employers that either implement a drug-free workplace program pursuant to s. 440.102 and rules adopted under such section or implement a safety program pursuant to provisions of the rating plan or implement both a drug-free workplace program and a safety program. The plans must be actuarially sound and must state the savings anticipated to result from such drug-testing and safety programs.”