Three Top Employment Drug Screening Issues for 2021

Three Top Employment Drug Screening Issues for 2021

Drug screening continues to be an important tool for employers wishing to establish safe, drug-free workplaces. The evidence on the side of drug testing is overwhelming; businesses with strong, consistent drug policies have fewer accidents, less absenteeism, lower losses from fraud and theft, and higher productivity than businesses that choose to forego this important protective measure. 

However, the preponderance of positive evidence doesn’t mean that employment drug screening is without controversy. Advocates for drug testing can expect to face the following issues in the coming year:

Marijuana Laws

As more and more states legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana, workplace drug testing becomes more complicated. The states that have legalized marijuana are moving forward to outlaw including marijuana in employment-related drug screens, on the grounds that off-the-job use of cannabis should not impact an individual’s employability. The approach seems to be to treat marijuana use similarly to alcohol use, but this is not as straightforward as it seems as marijuana use, especially regular use, can leave the user impaired for much longer periods of time than alcohol. Determining the rights of employers to protect their workplaces from individuals impaired by marijuana is still a work in process.

Reasonable Suspicion

Many employers wishing to use drug testing to safeguard their businesses continue to test employees after they are hired, either via random drug testing protocols or because of reasonable suspicion. Some states actually require reasonable suspicion and do not permit random testing. The law is not consistent on this issue, but courts have generally found that employers have a right to use random testing in order to protect against injury or damage. Testing the boundaries of these rights continues to be a hot button issue. 


Many opponents of drug testing claim that testing promotes discrimination. There are three basic arguments:

  • Workplace drug testing often fails to consider mental health challenges or other health issues that may lead to positive test results and unfair adverse employment actions. 
  • Drug testing policies are inconsistently applied across organizations.
  • Addiction is a disability and individuals struggling with addiction are entitled to special protection.

You can expect these issues to receive significant attention in the new year. 

Two Sides

Two opposing positions are at odds in the employment drug testing argument: one agenda that prioritizes health and safety issues in the workplace and another that places civil liberties above all else. The coming year is certain to bring changes and progress to pre-employment drug testing. 


Edward Powell