Drug Testing Doesn’t Always Require Termination

Some business owners and managers fear random drug testing almost as much as the employees who know they’re likely to fail the tests. 

Why? Because they believe the employee who failed the test has to be to terminated. 

If you’ve ever participated in a firing, you know it can be a very unpleasant and stressful situation. It’s tough on the terminated employee, of course — but also on the person doing the firing. And often, morale in the workplace drops like a rock.

Worst of all, when a reasonably reliable employee is fired for failing a random drug screen, the company loses the time and money that was spent recruiting and training the employee. That loss is amplified when more is spent recruiting, hiring and training a replacement.

So should random drug screens be reduced? Of course not. In fact, it’s just the exact opposite — businesses and organizations need more random drug testing, not less.

Research shows that, on average, 15–17% of employees in U.S. companies abuse substances. Ignoring those facts would be dangerous and risky. 

Drugs and alcohol in the workplace are your problem when you’re running a business — whether you recognize it or not. It will only get worse if you bury your head in the sand.


Use and abuse of drugs and alcohol by employees can cause negative effects, not just on the user and his or her family, but also on the workplace as a whole. 

Alcohol and drug users take three times as many sick days, are more likely to injure themselves or others, and are five times more likely to file workers’ compensation claims.

Those extra sick days and increases in workers’ compensation claims cost the company money and reduce its ability to pay higher wages and benefits. Paying lower wages and benefits reduces morale and makes it harder to recruit good employees.

Employees who use and abuse alcohol and drugs can also negatively affect the performance and attitude of co-workers. That’s because co-workers are often put in danger, injured, or must work harder to re-do or cover for a substance-abusing co-worker.


Smart business owners and managers use random drug tests as a risk management tool. It helps identify a problem before it gets out of control and has a negative affect on employee job performance or the business’s bottom line. And a good testing program can build stronger, healthier, more loyal employees.


If you use random drug testing, what other option do you have besides firing employees who fail a test? 

You can get them treatment. And you can get them back to work eventually. Treatment is the right thing to do for many reasons. You’ll be helping the employee and his or her family. But you’ll also be helping your company. 

There is practical proof that an employee you send to treatment often becomes more conscientious and loyal after receiving treatment and returning to work. Workplace morale often increases also as other employees notice the change in the employee and the company’s loyalty to the employee.

What about the financial aspect? It’s pretty clear that getting an employee into treatment will often cost less than recruiting, hiring and training a new employee. 

The owner of a well-known Valley business has been longtime client of Worklife by Meridian, our workforce health and wellness arm. Our client believes random drug tests make a better workplace environment. 

“Random drug testing is an asset, not a hindrance to our organization. The employees who have failed drug screens and have gone into treatment usually come out as better employees — some of the best I have,” says our client. “It’s saved me a lot of money to drug test and help get them into treatment, rather than firing them and hiring and training someone one else.”

The bottom line? For a better company, keep up the random drug testing. If an employee fails a test, consider treatment instead of termination. You’ll both be glad you did.