What is random drug testing?
Random drug testing is a program where the employer, using a random selection process, selects one or more individuals from an employee pool to undergo drug testing. Federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers – which include pilots, bus drivers, truck drivers and workers in nuclear power plants – are required to undergo random drug testing as mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Some non-regulated employers also elect to perform random drug testing on their employees in an effort to deter employee drug use.
What are the benefits of random drug testing?
By using a random selection process, employers ensure that there is no bias and that all employees have an equal chance of being chosen – even those who may have recently undergone testing. Random drug testing can be more effective at detecting and deterring drug use than periodic or pre-employment testing because employees do not know when the drug testing will occur. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, because this type of testing has no advance notice, it can act as a deterrent.
How are employees selected for testing?
Random drug testing selections are based on the size of the employee pool, program period and frequency rate. A rigorous, comprehensive methodology helps to ensure that every eligible employee has an equal opportunity of being selected for testing during each selection period. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends that, regardless of job titles, people should be chosen for testing based on their job function.
What is an “employee pool”?
An employee pool refers to a group of employees subject to a specific set of random drug testing selection parameters.
What is the difference between the “program period” and a “selection period”?
The program period is the length of time the random drug testing program will actively run. The simplest program period to use is one year. Testing activity may fluctuate during the course of the program period, but by the time the period closes, the number of completed tests should equal the random (frequency) rate. The selection period is the interval within the program period for which a given number of random selections are performed and their corresponding tests completed. Typical selection periods are one month, one week or one quarter. For example, a monthly frequency indicates that each month is a new selection period.
What is the “frequency rate” or “random rate”?
The frequency or random rate indicates the number of selections as a percentage of the pool size. For example, if there are 100 people in the pool, and the annual rate is 50%, then 50 selections will occur in a year’s time.
Can I schedule a random test to occur regularly on the same day or month?
No. To be effective, random drug testing must not occur at a predictable time or date. Knowing when they will be tested ahead of time allows workers to make plans to “clean up” or subvert the test.
What is “over-sampling”?
Over-sampling refers to the practice of selecting more people for testing than the rate requires. This is done in anticipation of some number of tests not being completed. Over–sampling is required in almost every random testing program because it is simply not possible to conduct a test on every person that is selected. People sometimes get sick, go on vacation, change responsibilities or are otherwise unavailable for testing. An over-sampling rate of 20% is quite common.
How are individuals selected for random testing?
Random selection is driven by a thorough algorithm based on employee pool membership, the program period, rate and frequency (selection period). This algorithm assigns individual index numbers and generates a random list of numbers, which is then matched up to the index numbers generated. As a result, a random list of employees (donors) is created for a given selection period.
Why does KRESS recommend strictly limiting the time between notifying an employee he or she will be tested and actually testing them?
Employees who don’t believe they will pass a drug test are sometimes tempted to cheat or subvert the test. To protect the integrity of the testing process, employees should be tested as soon as possible after being notified of their selection.
What is an alternate and how do I know if I need them?
Alternates are additional names that are chosen through the randomization process, meant to be used only when chosen employees are unavailable for testing. Example: If an employee selected for testing is known to be unavailable during the selection cycle (legitimate extended absence, long-term illness, etc.), then you document the reason and make-up the rate shortfall by using the next alternate selection provided. The use of alternates keeps you from having to make an extra selection during the next selection cycle and helps ensure your random percentage rate. Please note: Alternates should never be used just because an employee is selected for testing but has the day off, or because of operational difficulties. In those cases, it is best to just test the employee during their next scheduled shift within the same selection cycle.
If my organization schedules collectors to come on-site for random drug and alcohol testing and one of my employees is absent the day of the collections, can I simply test an alternate?
No. You must test the employees who are on your random selection list. The one exception would be for an employee who is on an extended leave of absence or will be off duty for the duration of the selection period (monthly or quarterly). NOTE: If an alternate is used, the employer must maintain documentation as to the reason why the alternate was tested in the place of the selected employee. No employee should be excused from testing because they fail to show up for testing. Once the employee is notified to report for testing and the test does not occur, the opportunity for the random testing is over. It is up to the employer to ensure the random drug and alcohol testing is fair and consistent. When employees are selected and not tested, the program is not random, not fair, and not consistent. This creates exposure to liability and potential lawsuits.
Can an individual be selected more than once during a selection period?
It is possible for individuals to be selected multiple times for testing as the algorithms used do not exclude individuals from selection unless they are purposefully removed from the employee pool. That said, an individual will not be selected twice on the same selection period but could be selected more than once over the course of the program period. If the program covers 12 months, they could be selected more than once over that time.
I have employees on workers comp. Should they be included in the random pool?
In order to maintain the integrity of your random drug testing program, you should ensure that every eligible employee has an equal opportunity of being selected for testing during each selection period. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends that, regardless of job titles, all employed, eligible people should be part of the pool of eligible employees to be chosen for testing based on their job function or category. For example, the company could make all workers who operate machinery or vehicles subject to random drug testing, but not require the testing of clerical staff. Some employers test only those employees whose jobs are inherently risky. If your employee is in a position that is part of the testing pool, then being on workers compensation does not make them ineligible for random testing.
How often should a company test? Monthly? Bi-monthly? Quarterly?
Random selections should be just that, random, where employees in a pool should be selected randomly based on the selection periods established within the program. They may know that within a certain period they will be drug tested but will not be able to deduce exactly when they will be tested, leaving the drug-use-deterring element of surprise intact. If you are not subject to any compliance with federal testing regulations or having to meet the specific standards of a regulating authority, such as DOT, then the size of your drug pool and annual random percentage rate you are trying to achieve often sets the occurrence schedule for your program. The frequency rate indicates the number of selections as a percentage of the pool size. For example, if there are 100 people in the pool, and the annual rate is 50%, then 50 selections will occur in a year’s time. Some companies may choose to do all of their random tests in one or two testing days. Other companies may choose to schedule out the 50 tests over a period of a year with monthly runs of 4 or 5 employees testing so that at the end of the year it adds up to the 50% goal.
Does KRESS offer different types of random selection programs?
Yes. Contact us for more information on the random testing program that best suits your needs.