Is Pre-Employment Drug Screening Worthwhile In Today’s Culture?

There are many ways for store owners to reduce the risk of employee theft and fraud. Background checks supplement interviews and screening questions on a job application. Manager training to know the signs and indicators that a worker may be engaging in theft activity of some sort is another preventative step. Electronic Article Surveillance systems and tags are helpful in deterring shoplifters and dishonest employees. Certainly Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Public View monitors and mandatory package checks before leaving work all play a part in preventing internal criminal activity. One of the best tools an employer can use to reduce the chance they will even hire a thief in the first place is the use of pre-employment drug screening. The prospective employee would go to the lab, fill the cup and labs would send off the sample to have it checked for illegal substances. That has been the most common of the drug tests and many employers have relied on it to help them keep their stores profitable and safe. 

     Is this still an effective method for owners to use? With states loosening their own laws surrounding marijuana use it is a mixed bag. Not all states are legalizing it and it is still a federal crime to use, grow, distribute or possess it. So if you are in a state where it is still a crime to use marijuana and an applicant applies to a job with your company but he/she comes from a state where it has been “legalized” do you have them take a pre-employment drug test? What happens if they take the test and results show they use marijuana, do you not hire them even though it was “legal” where they came from? This can pose a dilemma for store owners. If you do hire them, do you put yourself at risk for discriminating against someone from your own state who failed and did not get hired based on that result? 

     Leaving the marijuana out of the equation for the moment, there is still room for drug testing in the workplace, both pre-screening and random drug testing of employees. Drug screening can identify other illegal substances in addition to marijuana. According to, “A typical drug test for employment purposes screens for drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.” While you may decide to overlook positive results for marijuana you can still turn down applicants for the other drugs. States may be legalizing marijuana but the debates about the safety and effects of the drug on behavior remain a concern. Just because it is legal does not mean you necessarily want someone who uses this drug or any other drug working for your business. Pre-employment drug screening is still an effective tool in your efforts to combat theft and safety concerns. 

     Why test for drugs in the first place? By testing and screening out applicants who test positive you significantly reduce the risk of hiring someone who very well may steal from your store. It may be cash or merchandise but they have a habit to feed and they still have bills to pay and they are not going to feed that habit on a retail job. Working in the store gives them access to money and merchandise that will provide the resources for their addiction. Another reason to test is to keep your store safe. Someone who is illegally using drugs or coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a cause of an accident or can be the victim of an injury in the workplace incurred while under the influence. Whether they cause the accident or are the victim of an accident, you can end up paying for it. There is also the safety of your other employees to consider. Someone under the influence of the wrong drugs can be unstable and volatile. What is it that is going to trigger a violent action on their part? Giving them a direction or task they don’t want to do? How about a customer that says something that sets off your employee. There is no place for violence or theft in the workplace and pre-employment drug screening can help prevent both from happening. 

Why Should I Care If An Employee Uses Illegal Drugs On Their Own Time?

Because like alcohol abuse, both legal and illegal drug use, affects your bottom line. This issue never has a happy ending and it will never go away unless you meet it head-on.

Drug abuse affects your bottom line through poor performance, high numbers of no call/no shows, risk to customer and employee safety, high workers comp claims, bad elements frequenting your business, customers shying away from your business and much, much more.

If you operate in a State that has essentially de-criminalized marijuana use, you have an even bigger exposure. Employees that feel empowered to get high on a frequent basis and come to work in that condition, are a threat to your livelihood. State law does not relieve you of liability. Marijuana use and possession are still illegal under Federal law. Even if the Federal law was to change, you would still be liable for your employee’s actions while they are at work. It is just the same as an employee that is under the influence of alcohol while at work.

But you probably suspected or knew this already. What you cannot do is look the other way. Your plan should start with hiring, as competently as you can. I teach pre-employment interviewing live, via webinar to LPSI customers free of charge. A candidate will likely tell you if they abuse drugs, you simply need to know how to ask the question. These techniques also apply to employee theft from their previous employers. You just need to know how to ask.

A solid Applicant Management Center (AMC) will allow you to keep track of the application and their information. We have an excellent AMC that is also so inexpensive that it is a no-brainer. No more paper applications to keep up with.

Next, you must conduct a background investigation (okay, we do that too). A search of the candidate’s criminal record, credit (if necessary), education and a drug screen will give you a much better idea of who you are hiring.

Drug testing is simple and inexpensive. Our customers approve the candidate for the drug test and our online system allows the candidate to locate and schedule the test at a lab near them. Our nationwide system then tracks the progress. Results are given to you automatically. We can advise you on what substances you should include in your testing. Tests that come back positive are automatically reviewed by an M.D.

So now that this is out of the way, we need to return to the reason why you should require drug testing. Imagine this: one of your employees in the process of doing their job, is under the influence of a substance, and they injure one of your customers, accidentally. In today’s climate that incident will be known far and wide. None of us want to be on the five o’clock news with the headline “Customer injured at insert your company’s name here by an employee that was high”.

Need more? People who use illegal drugs attract other people who use illegal drugs. The whole birds of a feather, flock together scenario. And in my 40+ years of Loss Prevention and Law Enforcement experience, I can tell you that the financial pressure that illegal drugs puts on a person will make them likely to steal to support their needs. Illegal drugs WILL lead to employee theft regardless of how well you think your employees like you and company.

Fix the issue before it becomes a financial drain and a liability to YOUR business and livelihood. Contact us today for more information.