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Stevens, L. Nye 

Employee Drug Testing. Testimony. Statement (Summary) 
of L. Nye Stevens, Associate Director, General 
Government Division, before the Subcommittee on 
Employment Opportunities, Committee on Education and 
Labor, House of Representatives. 

General Accounting Office, Washington, DC. General 

Government Div. 

GAO-T-GGD-88-14 

21 Apr 88 

lOp. 

Legal/Legislative /Regulatory Materials (090) 
MFOl/PCOl Plus Postage. 

Adults; *Drug Use; ^Employees; ^Employer Attitudes; 
Employer Employee Relationship; *Employment 
Practices; Job Application 
*Drug Use Testing 



IDENTIFIERS 
ABSTRACT 

At the request of Congress, the General Accounting 
Office (GAO) conducted a study of drug testing of employees by 
employers. To identify and obtain the most recent surveys on drug 
testing policies and practices in the private sector, the GAO 
searched 14 computerized bibliographic files and discussed 
information needs with representatives of 35 public and private 
organizations knowledgeable about drug testing practices. From this 
search, 10 usable surveys were found and analyzed. The survey data 
indicate that (1) drug testing is a common, but not universal private 
sector practice, more likely among larger firms; (2) firms are more 
likely to test applicants than employees; (3) more firms plan to 
implement drug testing in the future; (4) some firms do not provide 
confirmatory tests to employees or applicants who initially test 
positive; (5) some firms retest employees or applicants using the 
same type of test as that used initially; and (6) some firms do not 
tell applicants that the reason they were not hired was because of a 
positive drug test. The GAO plans to continue the study on drug 
testing in the workplace and to determine the regulatory controls 
over drug testing laboratories. (KC) 



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* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made * 

* from the original document. * 
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United States General Accoimting OfBce 



GAO 



Testimony 



r\l 
o 



*^For Release Employee Drug Testing 

O on Delivery 
jjjExpected at 

10:00 a.m. EDT 

Thursday 

April 21, 1988 



Statement of 

L. Nye Stevens, Associate Director 
General Government Division 

Before the 

Subcommittee on Employment Opportunities 
Committee on Education and Labor 
House of Representatives 



us DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION 

Office of Educational Research and improvenieni 

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES JNFORMmTION 
/ CENTER (ERIC) 

4G This document has been reproduced as 
received Irom the person or organization 
originating it 

O Minor changes have been made to improve 
reproduction quality 



* Pointsof view or opinions stated in this docuh 
ment do not necessarily represent official 
OERt position or policy 





g|^(^\T-GGD-88-14 



2 



EMPLOYEE DRUG TESTING 



SUMMARY OF STATEMENT BY 
L. NYE STEVENS 
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR 
GENERAL GOVERNMENT DIVISION 



In response to a request by Congressman Charles E. Schumer, GAO 
obtained and reviewed 10 surveys on private sector drug testing. 
GAO's objective was to summarize the information in these surveys 
concerning the extent and nature of employee drug testing in the 
private sector. 

On the basis of the available survey data and pattern of response 
across surveys, GAO believes some summary observations can be 
made about private sector drug testing as practiced by survey 
respondents. The survey data indicate that: 

— drug testing is a common, but not universal private 
sector practice; 

— firms are more likely to test applicants than 
employees ; 

— larger firms, as measured by the number of employees, 
are more likely to drug test; and 

— more firms plan to implement drug testing in the 
future. 

Regarding the treatment of individuals subjected to drug 
testing, the surveys show that, although they are generally in 
the minority, there are firms that: 

— do not provide confirmatory tests to employees or 
applicants who initially test positive, 

— retest employees or applicants using the same type 
of test as that used initially, and 

— do not tell applicants that the reason they are not 
hired was because of a positive drug test. 

For a number of methodological and statistical reasons, the 
survey results should not be considered a statistically valid, 
representative sample of the population of businesses nationwide. 
The data from the surveys are only indicative of the drug testing 
practices reported by the firms that responded. 



Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee r it is a 
pleasure to appear before you today to testify on the extent and 
nature of employee drug testing in the private sector. Inasmuch 
as H.R. 691 would apply to private sector drug testing programs^ 
we believe this testimony will provide a useful characterization 
of the existing programs that could be affected by the proposed 
legislation. 

At the request of Congressman Schumer^ we reviewed recent 
surveys on private sector drug testing. Our report entitled 
Employee Drug Testing: Information on Private Sector Programs 
(GAO/GGD-88-32r March 2, 1988) summarizes the information 
contained in the individual survey reports and relates it to some 
of Congressman Schumer's specific concerns about private sector 
drug testing practices. 



Results in brief 



Overall r the surveys indicate that drug testing is a common^ 
but not universal private sector practice and that drug testing 
may become more common in the future. The surveys also suggest 
that larger firmsr in terms of the number of persons employed^ 
are more likely to drug test and that firms with testing programs 
are more likely to test applicants than employees. 

V7ith regard to the treatment of individuals who are drug 
testedr the surveys show thatr although they are generally in the 
minority^ there are firms that do not provide confirmatory tests 
to employees or applicants who initially test positive. There 
are also firms reporting that they do not tell applicants that 
the reason they were not hired was because of a positive drug 
test. 

Before providing further details in support of these 
observations and additional survey information^ we will briefly 
describe the surveys used and mention some of the methodological 
qualifications that need to be kept in mind concerning this 
survey data. 



Overview of the surveys 



To identify and obtain the most recent surveys on drug 
testing policies and practices in the private sector, we searched 
14 computerized bibliographic files. We also discussed our 
information needs with representatives of over 35 public and 
private organizations knowledgeable about drug testing practices. 
In the endr we identified 12 surveys with items on drug testing. 
However, we considered only 10 surveys usable for our purposes. 



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In general, large and medium sized firms — as measured by the 
number of employees — responded to the surveys. Roughly half or 
more of the firms responding to five of the surveys said that 
they employed over 500 persons. Three other surveys 
characterized the responding firms as among the nation's largest 
business organizations. For example, one survey focused only on 
Fortune 100 firms, which in 1987 employed a total of about 8.5 
million people. 

The data from these surveys are reasonably current. Of the 
10 surveys, 5 were published in 1987, 4 in 1986, and 1 in 1985. 
The primary purpose of most of the surveys was to obtain 
information about drug testing, or workplace drug abuse which 
included drug testing. 

The number of firms being surveyed ranged from a low of 100 
in one survey to a high of approximately 35,000 in another. The 
percent of surveys returned ranged from less than 1 percent to 
100 percent. The actual number of respondents providing 
information ranged from a low of 60 in one :>arvey to a high of 
over 1,900 in another. 



Interpreting survey results 



Before discussing the survey results, certain qualifications 
must be made concerning the use and interpretation of the data. 
For a number of methodological and statistical reasons which are 
detailed in our report, the survey results should not be averaged 
or considered a statistically valid, representative sample of the 
population of businesses nationwide. 

For most of the surveys, certain limitations, such as low 
response rates and selective samples, preclude projecting the 
results beyond the group. of businesses that actually responded to 
the surveys. 

Despite these restrictions, we believe these surveys are a 
useful source of information about private sector drug testing. 
The figures obtained from the surveys are indicative of the drug 
testing practices reported by the firms that responded. This 
constitutes a large number of corporations reflecting a broad 
cross section of the nation's businesses. 



The extent of drug testing 



All 10 surveys provided some information on the prevalence 
of testing, and almost all the surveys differentiated between 
programs for employees and those for applicants. The results 



indicate that across the surveys a number of the responding 
companies, though not a majority, had drug testing programs. The 
highest figures were reported in two surveys that focused on some 
of the nation's largest companies. Roughly half the respondents 
to these two surveys indicated that they had a testing program. 
At the low end of the spectrum, another survey said that only 9 
percent of the responding firms had an employee drug testing 
program. 

The majority of surveys also showed that firms were more 
likely to test applicants than employees. In one survey, 55 
percent of the respondents said that they tested applicants. 
This was the highest percentage reported across all surveys 
concerning the extent of drug testing. 

The surveys indicated that larger organizations were more 
likely to have drug testing programs. For example, in one of the 
surveys only 16 percent of the firms with less than 500 employees 
had drug testing programs while 36 percent of the firms with 
5,000 or more employees had testing programs. Four of the 
surveys looked at the percent of firms testing for drugs 
relative to their number of employees. All four surveys shewed 
that a greater percentage of the largest firms have testing 
programs. 

The surveys also suggest that drug testing may become more 
common. A number of firms that were not testing at the time of 
the survey said they were planning to do so in the foreseeable 
future. The lowest figure reported across surveys for firms 
planning to test was 3 percent while the highest figure reported 
was 20 percent. One survey noted a concern that if the trend 
toward drug testing continues, drug users may gravitate to those 
organizations known not to test and that other employers will 
have to follow suit as a matter of self-protection. 



The testing methods most often used 



In all five of the surveys that inquired about drug testing 
methods, the majority of survey respondents reported urinalysis 
as the method they used. In those surveys that asked about who 
performs the testing, the majority of firms reported using 
independent laboratories. 

Seven of the surveys raised the question of confirming 
initial positive tests with a second test. Although the majority 
of firms in five of the surveys said they performed some kind of 
retest, performing a confirmatory retest was not a universal 
practice. Less than half the firms reported retesting in the 
other two surveys. 



Further, it appears that retesting was less common for 
applicants than for employees. In two of the three surveys that 
specifically reported on retesting of applicants, less than half 
of the firms said that they provided follow-up testing for job 
applicants who failed an initial test. 

Three surveys made the distinctions among the following: 1) 
retesting with some other confirmatory test, 2) retesting with 
the same type of test as the initial test, and 3) no retesting. 
Although more firms reported retesting with some other type of 
urinalysis test, there were firms reporting that they used the 
same test. Otner confirming tests included some that were more 
Sophisticated, such as one of several chromatography urine tests. 



Who receives drug testing and why 



Among firms that tested employees, the majority of firms 
cited testing for cause, such as after an accident, as the reason 
for testing. As one survey noted, this type of testing may be 
prevalent because it is less controversial and has support in the 
courts. 

To a lesser extent, firms used random or periodic testing 
for employees. The percent of firms reporting they did random 
testing ranged from 23 percent to 10 percent across the seven 
surveys providing information on this type of testing. It 
appears that testing for selected jobs, such as those involving 
safety, is more common than random testing, but only two surveys 
provided figures on this form of employee drug testing. In these 
surveys, 38 percent and 34 percent of the firms reported testing 
for selected jobs. 

All six of the surveys reporting on the types of applicants 

tested indicated that among firms testing applicants, it was more 

common to test all applicants. Across these surveys, 79 percent 

to 94 percent of the firms that screen for drugs said that they 
tested all applicants. 



Reasong for having and not having drug testing programs 



Five surveys noted respondents' reasons for having a drug 
testing program. Among the reasons often cited for drug testing 
were improving workplace safety, increasing productivity, curbing 
illegal drug traffic, and reducing employee medical costs. Firms 
that did not test generally cited reservations about the costs 
and reliability of drug testing as well as the ethical and moral 
implications of the process. Other concerns included employee 
opposition, legal implications, and some doubts among a few 

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responding firms that if an employee took drugs, and the test 
showed that drugs were present in the body, it would not 
necessarily indicate job impairment. 



What happens to those individuals testing positive 



In the seven surveys that asked about the various actions 
taken when an applicant tested positive for drugs, the majority 
of firms said that they would not hire job applicants who failed 
drug testing. However, a number of firms also indicated that 
they would allow reappl icat ion later. Across the three surveys 
reporting figures on reappl ication, the percent of firms 
indicating they would allow reappl icat ion ranged from 30 to 79 
percent. Some firms noted that reapplication may be contingent 
on such factors as a negative retest, passage of a specified time 
period, or evidence of rehabilitation. Two surveys reported that 
the majority of firms would not consider an applicant if the 
candidate refused drug testing. 

There were more firms that said they would tell applicants 
testing positive why they were not being hired than firms that 
would not explain the reason for rejection. Across the four 
surveys addressing this issue, between 2 and 25 percent of 
respondents indicated they would not tell applicants the reason 
for rejection. 

In all five of the surveys asking about employees who tested 
positive, the majority of firms indicated a preference for 
rehabilitation rather than dismissal. Across the surveys, 
between 52 and 89 percent of responding firms said that they 
would refer an employee to a rehabilitative program. Two of the 
surveys noted that the choice or combination of actions would be 
determined on a case-by-case basis for employees who tested 
positive. One survey noted that termination is often the final 
outcome, but warnings or suspensions were also frequent 
alternatives, particularly for the first offense. 

A written drug testing policy can inform managers and 
employees of company procedures for dealing with drug use. One 
survey asked companies engaging in drug testing if they had a 
written policy on drug testing. While the majority of firms said 
that they had either a written policy or were in the process of 
writing one, 14 percent of the respondents who drug test 
indicated that they had no written policy or plans to develop 
one. This suggests that, although they are a minority, some 
firms operate without written, formal procedures describing their 
drug testing program or procedures. 



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GAP work in progress 



Mr. Chairman/ this concludes my overview of the information 
contained in the surveys we reviewed. Before completing my 
statement/ however/ I would like to briefly describe a related 
project we have underway/ also at the request of Congressman 
Schumer. This work will examine the degree to which states 
regulate laboratories that analyze drug test samples. 

As you knoW/ one of the prime concerns regarding employee 
drug testing is the ability to ensure accurate test results. 
This concern becomes more important when one considers that as 
more private sector firms implement drug testing/ more commercial 
laboratories may become involved in analyzing the specimens. 
The quality and competence of these laboratories have a direct 
bearing on the accuracy of test results. 

We plan to survey the 50 states next month to determine the 
regulatory controls over drug testing laboratories. Among other 
thingS/ we will look at licensing requirements/ quality control 
standards/ proficiency testing requirements/ personnel 
standards/ and state inspection programs. 

We have already identified some inconsistencies between 
states. As part of the process of developing our survey 
questionnaire we contacted officials in 34 states by telephone 
and obtained some preliminary information. In 21 of the 34 
states contacted/ laboratories must be licensed or approved by 
meeting specific laboratory requirements. Requirements in six of 
these 21 states include fairness standards and privacy rights for 
the individual. Thirteen of the states we contacted/ however/ do 
not have standards or regulations that laboratories are required 
to meet/ although four currently have drug testing proposals 
pending in their state legislatures. We will explore these 
differences in greater detail as our work progresses. 

We have also noted that under certain circumstances/ 
laboratories do have to meet minimum federal requirements, such 
as when testing Medicare patients or military personnel/ or when 
engaging in interstate commerce. However/ when testing private 
sector employees/ only the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act 
(CLIA)/ a federal law covering laboratories that do interstate 
testing/ would apply. CLIA standards include personnel 
qualifications/ quality control procedures/ record keeping and 
equipment requirements/ and assurances of an acceptable external 
proficiency test program. 

Laboratories that do not test Medicare patientS/ the 
military/ or public sector employees/ and operate solely within 
one state/ do not fall under any federal laws. Based on our 
preliminary information/ we note that some laboratories in 



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approximately a third of the 34 states we contacted are 
unregulated at the federal or state level. 

This concludes my comments ^ I would be pleased to answer 
questions. 



o ^ 10 



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