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How Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing

Written by Trevor Kupfer

How Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing

Normally when we create a survey for staffing professionals, with the intention of quantifying trends and opinions across the industry, we kind of know what to expect. But with this drug testing survey, we honestly had no idea. We just know that public opinion is shifting (at least with some drugs), which in turn has led several countries and US states to ease their laws on it. So we were just curious how, if at all, this is affecting the staffing industry and the hiring practices of the companies it serves.

Most Test Everyone

As you can see from the results, most staffing companies (45%) say they drug test across the board or drug test the majority of their candidates (28%). What’s interesting, however, is that a combined 26% of respondents do it some of the time, rarely, or not at all. That’s a decent chunk of the industry specifically swinging the opposite way of the majority. We’ll get back to them in a few paragraphs.

How Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing

Our Clients Told Us ToHow Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing

I told you we didn’t know what to expect, and obviously the answers to these questions show it. We thought it might be possible that staffers might be less likely to test applicants for high-end jobs, or more likely to test temps as opposed to perms, but that’s clearly not the case.

Though these survey questions didn’t ascertain why staffing companies drug test, it was instantly clear through the comments we received that most do it for one simple reason: their clients want them to. “If clients require it, we do it,” “It’s entirely dependent on our client,” and 67 other messages just like it told us this fact loud and clear.

Some Clients Want More, Others Want Less or None

This survey question, on its own, isn’t terribly interesting. But compared with other answers it’s quite telling. Most staffers and their clients have stuck to their guns, so to speak, when it comes to drug testing. If they have changed, it’s been in part because of states legalizing marijuana. But instead of testing less and relaxing policies, and you might deduce, companies in those states are drug testing more.

How Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing

“With the approval of the medical marijuana card, we have seen an increased trend in clients requesting that drug tests are required as part of the contract for temporary staffing,” one respondent wrote.

“States legalizing marijuana make it even MORE important to drug test. The ‘med marijuana’ people seem to be under the impression that employers are obligated to hire them. This of course is not true. Pot heads – card carrying or not – continue to present a safety risk in the workplace and federal law does not recognize state med marijuana laws. It’s embarrassing when a candidate shows up on interview and tells employer ‘No, I won’t pass drug screen. I have med marijuana card,’ ” says another.

Our next question in the survey specifically How Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing
targeted that 26% chunk from the first question. Why do some places choose not to drug test very often? Intuitively it could appear as though those would be outlier companies that serve unique niches, do things “the bad way,” or just want to live outside the mainstream, but in fact most of them are doing exactly the same thing as the majority. They’re following what their clients want – it’s just that their clients don’t want to drug test. As one commenter said, “The only client we have that consistently demands drug testing is in healthcare.”

The 21% chunk said they’ve yet to experience problems that would justify more testing. Exactly zero percent said their lack of testing was because “laws are more lenient now,” and the “other” votes accounted for unique circumstances such as those in Ontario, where it’s against the law to drug test unless the position they’re applying for deals with drugs (a pharmacy, for instance). We also learned through comments and n/a answers that some clients only want drug tests after an accident.

What Are Staffers’ Opinions of Drug Testing?

At first glance there’s nothing weird about this answer. Sixty-three percent of respondents feel the same as they always have: drug testing is definitely worth it. If you remember from a few questions earlier, 64% said their policies have mostly stayed the same. I looked closer at the stats and, not surprisingly, if a respondent gave either of those answers there’s a 99% chance they also gave the other one. Less than a handful of people gave one answer and not the other.

How Drug Testing is Changing in Staffing

What’s fun about this question is how the answers broke down after that. The four remaining answers all yielded between 5 and 11 percent, and each one is pretty dramatically different. You can’t ascertain much from the numbers on this, but thankfully we could turn to an interesting dynamic in the comments.

“We offer it to all of our clients and feel it is essential.”
“We prefer not to do it.”
“I think we need to drug test every employee, regardless if the customer asks for it or not.”
“Mandatory. No drug test, no job offer.”
“If the customer does not want drug testing, we do not test anyone.”
“It is a requirement for hiring and random tests are conducted throughout the year.”
“Prudent step as long as it is consistent and equally applied. Feel that it adds credence to the ‘negligence in hiring’ provisions!”
“Pre-employment and random drug testing is very important in the workplace today. I can’t imagine not drug testing.”

However, it’s not quite as easy as breaking it down into “pro-drug testing” and “anti-drug testing” with this group. There’s comments that call their clients’ motivations in question, like:

“A failed test does not mean we won’t place the associate.”
“Do it for clients, do not do it for internal staff.”
“There are not enough confirmed results to justify the amount of testing we do.”

There’s comments that call the process and its potential loopholes into question:

“I think more and more people know how to manipulate the system to pass the test.”
“I do not have a lot of faith in the saliva test which is what we use mostly as opposed to labs.”

And then there’s comments that condemn the entire execution of the tests:

“Screening out candidates who are either so dim-witted or addicted that they can’t pass a drug test is useful for obvious job categories such as heavy equipment operators or security guards. But anyone who thinks that a pre-employment drug screening has a significant effect on reducing losses caused by drug and alcohol abuse by employees is seriously deluded.”
“Unless a company has random drug screening in place, pre-employment drug screening is a waste of time and money, in my opinion. The candidate can pass his/her drug screen and light up in the parking lot or use drugs any time they want to, after they are hired/placed.”

And then there’s this comment, which I have to include because it’s entertaining:

“Incredibly, there is a culture of acceptance amongst users. They seem to live in their own reality where everybody does it or, at the very least, everyone condones the use of illegal drugs, typically pot. Personally, I hope all of my competitors start smoking weed. I’ll dominate!”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Michael Hayes

    Since we do temp-to-perm most of the workers get a pre employment drug screen and then the worker will get one prior to hire on. I question the sanity of folks who take drugs while looking for work, knowing there will possibly be a drug screen before employment. My advice: Stay off the Hippy Lettuce.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 14

    • Dennis Hardaugh

      I love how you call it Hippy Lettuce, but i’m sure you wash down your vitriol with a mixed drink or some beer when you get home from a long day of work at your mediocre position. I know high level engineers here at Intel that smoke the “hippy lettuce” and i’ve seen more than a few marriages be destroyed by alcohol. Your view of marijuana is severely warped. Someone who binge drinks or does cocaine could pass a drug test within 3 days of no ingestion but someone who has mild anxiety or GI disruption issues like Gastroporesis and uses a low-THC strain of Marijuana that doesn’t even get you “high” will be ruined over the fact that its stored in your adipose tissue.

      You sound like the run of the mill opinionated jerkoff. Very high chance you’re a Christian Republican– and sadly your ancient wisdom and “ideologies” will only cease when they rot alongside you (and your generation) in the grave.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

      • Ed Shaz

        So Dennis,
        Does your “Atheist Democrat” self image
        cause you to troll the web looking for simple
        statements to attack with sweeping assumptions,
        and grotesque condescension?

        Or was your outburst condemning tens of millions of
        of American minds just another spontaneous display
        from today’s unstable, hypocritical Left?

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

      • Dawn

        The difference is alcohol is legal and the hippy lettuce isn’t. So if you really want a job STOP SMOKING IT!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

        • Victoria

          It is within my opinion that making the argument with the comparison between Marijuana and most of any other drug is valid because I, too, think that Marijuana is mild and much less harmful than most legal drugs. And the thing is this: unfortunately, “il” is the only difference, if you will. See, for me, it boils down to much more than “Well, that’s the way it is.” So, do as you’re told? I have no problem with authority, per se. But I believe I should have complete control of what I consume and do. Especially consume. Obviously, I do not agree with murder or theft, etc. But what I do to my body should be entirely my decision. And, listen, I’m not saying that the employer MUST hire me regardless of what I do, because I also respect their business, their work and responsibility–but I have to say, though, as an aside, that if you do not come in to work high (on whatever your drug is) and it never affects your work performance, then I don’t think it should be an issue, period. I don’t think a drug test should even be necessary unless it is suspected and there is a problem. Hell, if there is a problem, that is what getting fired is for.
          Government, a man-made system, as most of our systems are, can send me to jail for smoking a deemed-illegal plant. Just smoking. Just minding my own business. A plant. My own body. My lungs and my free-will. And I don’t think that’s right. And that’s really what the problem is.
          I think it’s valid to say that “Well, I am not an alcoholic but I smoke pot yet I cannot get a job while the alcoholic can.” (And varying scenarios like this). I think there’s something wrong with that. Dare I say severely. But, of course, that could be a little bias. I, personally, am one of the, perhaps, most peaceful and calm people you could ever meet. I love others and I love this planet and I love my life. But I do smoke pot from time to time. And I want to. The same way that someone else might want to have a few drinks after work or on the weekend by themselves or with a few friends. It’s the same concept, different substance. I don’t like to drink. It is my preference to smoke. I think a certain level of responsibility is required for nearly everything you do in your life. That’s not a surprise. Why can’t I smoke on my own time the way someone drinks on their own time? Peacefully (not that all who drink are peaceful, but I mean without worry) and without an issue (I speak, you see, “peacefully” and “without an issue” as in, no one necessarily thinks twice about it. In fact, to most, they’re just having a “good time.” Getting wasted, hammered, etc. And even if they were being responsible, staying home, or not driving, just genuinely having fun, the point is that it isn’t frowned upon and Marijuana doesn’t even have that kind of chance–without the threat of losing your job for responsible usage, etc.
          It’s funny, really, when you think about how you grow up, or at least in my case, when people gave me advice saying, well, when you drink or what have you, to just make sure you’re being you’re safe and don’t drink and drive and when you get old enough, we’ll go drinking together! The difference is that drinking is accepted and marijuana isn’t. “Il” is the unfortunate and wrongful product of that. I am a very capable, responsible, friendly, reliable worker. I don’t drink. I smoke.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. NCRO

    Has anyone compared the results of drug testing in the US with that of Ontario, since it’s illegal there for most jobs? It would be interesting to know if Ontario agencies experience a higher frequency of claims (all types) since they do not test. Of course, there could be cultural nuances that skew the numbers a bit, eh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0


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