Reasonable Suspicion

One of the most confusing aspects of being an employer is when and where to apply reasonable suspicion. Its uncertain, challenging, and difficult to broach the subject.

This month Charter Partners will present a Webinar covering this topic in depth. Below is a snippet of what will be covered. We would love to see you all there and invitations will be extended to all Watch out for it.

Under 49 CFR § 382.307, trucking companies that are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are required to provide reasonable suspicion drug tests to drivers they suspect of violating the alcohol or drug requirements.

a wooden block that says trust, surrounded by blue flowers
Photo by Alex Shute / Unsplash

What is a reasonable suspicion drug test?

Reasonable suspicion drug testing is a type of testing program employers use when they find evidence or make observations indicating an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work. It is different from random testing because it is only performed when a manager or another employee has made direct observations of an employee’s unusual behavior, symptoms of substance use, or possession of marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs in the workplace. Upon making these types of observations, the employer can send the employee for an immediate drug test and medical evaluation to check whether they are impaired as well as determine the cause of their impairment.

Why Is it important in the workplace?

There are many benefits of incorporating reasonable suspicion drug tests, including: Mitigates risks of accidents, injuries, and potential litigation through the removal of drug and alcohol users from safety-sensitive roles. It may also serve as a deterrent to employees who might otherwise use drugs or alcohol while working. It reduces costs caused by employee abuse of substances, including productivity losses, high rates of absenteeism, increased workers’ compensation claims, and workplace accidents.

What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion for an Employer to Drug Test an Employee?

Some of the Physical Signs of Substance Abuse

  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Bloodshot, watery eyes
  • Balance problems
  • Coordination problems
  • Slurred speech

What to Do if You Suspect an Employee Is Under the Influence

  1. Observe the Employee You should observe the employee for signs of impairment. Don’t rely on workplace gossip as the sole reason for sending the employee for a reasonable suspicion drug test. Instead, make the observations yourself.
  2. Ask a Second Manager or Supervisor to Observe the Employee If you think the employee might be impaired based on your observations, ask another supervisor or manager to also observe the employee so that you can confirm your suspicions.
  3. Remove the Employee From Their Duties If the employee is working in a safety-sensitive job, don’t wait to remove them from performing their duties. Instead, remove them until you have figured out why they appear to be impaired.

What to Do if You Suspect an Employee Is Under the Influence

  • Document Your Observations • Make sure you document in writing what you observed to support your basis for conducting reasonable suspicion drug testing. • The documentation should include the date, time, specific indicators of impairment you observed, the name of the second observer, your name, and the employee’s name. • Be specific with your observations to provide a clear picture of what you observed. Carefully document your observations.
  • Meet with the Employee
    • If after observing the employee, you believe they are impaired, request a meeting with them in private.
    • Tell the employee what you observed, and give them a chance to respond. Next, inform the employee that a reasonable suspicion drug test is required.
  • Send the Employee for Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing • Inform the employee that they need to take a reasonable suspicion drug test immediately. • Don’t allow the employee to drive to the center. Instead, drive them to the testing center or arrange for an on-site administration.

Industry-Specific Regulations

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

A reasonable suspicion exists based on specific observations of a driver’s appearance, odor, behavior, and speech.

For alcohol, these observations must be made immediately before, during, or immediately after a driver has been subject to the alcohol prohibitions for commercial drivers.

Alcohol prohibitions for commercial drivers include the following:

  • No measurable amount of alcohol in their system within four hours of going on duty or driving a commercial vehicle
  • No operating under the influence or using alcohol while driving
  • No transporting alcohol unless it is a part of the shipment

In our next blog we will uncover the 5 Best Practices for Conducting Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing . See you then.

Subscribe to Charter Partners' Blog

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.