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What might be considered reasonable suspicion for drug testing?

Employers  with a comprehensive drug testing policy as part of their drug-free workplace program often include reasonable suspicion testing, also known as for-cause or probable-cause testing. Reasonable suspicion testing must be based on individualized suspicion of a particular employee, and employers need to document objective facts that would suggest to a reasonable person that the individual is under the influence in violation of company policy. Supervisors, managers and HR professionals should be trained in recognizing the signs of substance misuse in the workplace.

When an employee is suspected of being under the influence, firsthand observation should be made immediately by more than one supervisor or manager. Some examples of the signs an employer may observe are described below.

Physical signs

  • Bloodshot eyes/dilated pupils.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Unsteady walk/uncoordinated movements.
  • Shakes or tremors.
  • Unexplained sweating or shivering.
  • Fidgeting/inability to sit still.
  • Sleeping at work or difficulty staying awake.
  • Unusual body or breath odor.
  • Deterioration in appearance/grooming.

Behavioral signs

  • Attendance problems—tardiness, pattern of absences or excessive absenteeism.
  • Decline in performance/productivity.
  • Acting withdrawn from others, secretive.
  • Money problems or borrowing or stealing money.

Psychological signs

  • Unexplained changes in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or inappropriate laughing.
  • Unexplained fear or paranoia.
  • Inability to focus or concentrate.

When two or more members of management make observations significant enough to warrant reasonable-suspicion drug testing, this should be documented and explained to the employee being sent for testing.

Related resources:

How to Document Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable Suspicion Documentation Form


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