What Are the Drug Testing Exceptions for Employers Hiring Safety-Sensitive Positions?

Throughout the USA, there are different drug testing laws depending on the specific state, for that reason I would suggest looking up the specific legislation that pertains to the state you’re in. In many states, such as New York, the drug testing rules have changed considerably with the recent legalization of marijuana. However there are many states that have exceptions when the positions are considered to be ‘safety-sensitive.’ Before we can learn more about what are the drug testing exceptions, we need to clearly define what are considered ‘safety-sensitive’ positions. Keep reading to learn more about.

What Are Safety Sensitive Positions?

A safety sensitive position is generally considered to be a role that has a heightened sense of danger, where the employee’s full concentration is required to be able to perform the task safely. Any impairment of their concentration, skills or judgment could have considerable consequences for the employee, other employees, or their workplace performance. It is important to also check whether your state has specific definition for what constitutes a safety sensitive position, or whether it’s up to the employer to decide. New York drug testing laws do include this clause for safety sensitive positions, so this means that there will be many cases where an employee could be tested for marijuana or alcohol use. It’s required, however, that an employee is made aware that their job is considered a ‘safety-sensitive’ position and how that impacts them with drug testing.

How to Use the Drug Testing Exemptions

The drug testing exemptions can make it possible for an employer to test an employee for marijuana and its metabolites. If you’d like to see whether your employees fit the description of a safety sensitive employee, then compare their job and job duties of the employee with the examples that are in the Act. As a general rule, you want to be more conservative when considering the exemptions. You’ll also have to regularly review any safety sensitive positions to ensure that as the positions evolve that they still meet the requirements to be considered as such, and still valid for an exemption. If you have employees who are performing safety-sensitive tasks, then you’ll be able to screen them for marijuana and if they have a positive test result, you’ll be able to take disciplinary action.

It’s important to note that with the law change legalizing marijuana, the intention was to allow its recreational use to be legal for all persons above the age of 21. If you want to try to implement safety-sensitive positions in your workplace, then there needs to be a genuine need for it too as it impacts your employees and how they can spend their free time. If you’re unsure of what positions might qualify for this label, it may be worth talking to your human resources department or consulting with a lawyer for specialized advice. The specific drug testing exemptions will vary considerably depending on the state you’re in, so be sure to look at state-specific advice too.

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