Drug testing in the workplace: Mobile companies on the rise in Nevada
Visit bit.ly/2Dfw4bI to read the full Quest Diagnostics report, “Increases in Illicit Drugs, Including Cocaine, Drive Workforce Drug Positivity to Highest Rate in 12 Years.”
RENO, Nev. — Linda Honey offers her palms and shrugs.
“It’s just a convoluted mess,” said Honey, co-owner of Timely Testing, a drug and alcohol testing company that started in Northern Nevada and later branched down to Las Vegas.
Honey, sitting inside the Timely Testing headquarters in south Reno, is referring to two recent changes:
1. The legalization of marijuana in Nevada taking effect Jan. 1, 2017, with recreational pot sales rolling out in July.
2. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in light of the opioid crisis, expanding the drug-testing panel for federally regulated organizations to include four synthetic opioids, which took effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Both changes, Honey said, can bring complex wrinkles to Nevada employers’ goals of a drug-free workplace.
Drug-testing companies like Timely Testing, however, are striving to help smooth things out for employers.
“We do three main things,” Honey said. “We do the drug testing, we do training for employers, such as up-to-date reasonable suspicion training, and we also do policy review.”
The Reno-based outfit is also mobile, which Honey said is the “greatest benefit” they hear from clients. For example, if an employee has been in an accident or is suspected of being under the influence, a company like Timely Testing will send a certified and trained collector to the job site, perform the test and leave, ultimately sending the test to a certified laboratory.
“No employer is having to spend time loading someone up into a car, taking them into a clinic and waiting,” Honey said.
In other words, mobile drug and alcohol testing services save employers time and, in turn, save them money, she said.
Drug positivity spike
And drug and alcohol testing companies throughout the country are busier than ever.
After all, American workers are testing positive for drug use — marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine/methamphetamine, PCP and opiates — at the highest rate in 12 years, according to the most recent report from Quest Diagnostics, the renowned Fortune 500 New Jersey-based company that provides clinical laboratory services.
Timely Testing CEO Nicole Nance said its business has increased revenue totals by 35 percent in 2017.
“We attribute the growth to the changing needs of the alcohol and drug testing industry, and the employer’s desire to maintain a safe and protected workplace,” Nance said in an email to NNBW.
All told, an analysis of more than 10 million workforce drug tests in 2016 found positive results from urine samples increase from 4 percent in 2015 to 4.2 percent in 2016.
Moreover, positive test results for marijuana use are climbing in safety-sensitive jobs — such as pilots and truck drivers — that require federally regulated testing and in the general workforce, according to the Quest study.
In fact, positive marijuana tests surged about 75 percent in the United States over the last four years — jumping from 5.1 percent in 2013 to 8.9 percent in 2016.
Melissa Davies, president of Northern Nevada Human Resources Association, said that is why the NNHRA’s main goal is to provide resources to the HR community on how to handle “this new world that we’re living in.”
With that, formulating policies is a challenge, especially when factoring in a company’s varying job duties.
“How they handle if they do a test would be subject to a number of things,” Davies said. “Something done for a machine operator is going to be different from a policy of an administrative assistant.”
Added Honey: “I think that it’s super important that employers have their workplace drug policies reviewed and updated — things are changing.”
Speaking specifically to marijuana, Honey said the policies need to reflect that the use and possession of marijuana on work premises or while on duty is prohibited.
The marijuana effect
This, however, begs the question: Is there a rise in Northern Nevada employers completely taking pot off their drug test panel?
One employer who spoke with the NNBW said they have.
“We took that (marijuana) pre-employment test off because we saw where Nevada was going, we saw where America was going,” said Eldorado Resorts Inc. CEO Gary Carano. “Times have changed, like it or not. So that’s how we addressed it.”
“But,” Carano continued, “whether it’s marijuana or any type of drug or alcohol, if you’re impaired and found to be impaired in the workplace, you’re going to be tested.”
For comparison sake, when asked if the legalization of marijuana has impacted their drug testing policy, a representative with Atlantis Casino Resort Spa told the NNBW via email that they “continue to support a drug-free workplace policy.”
Meanwhile, an employer like the University of Nevada, Reno, falls under federal law when it comes to drug testing policy.
“A thing that makes us a bit different is we, because of the large amount of federal grants, have to conform with the federal drug-free workplace policy,” said Tim McFarling, associate vice president of human resources at UNR.
Fact is, Honey said her company hasn’t seen any sweeping changes throughout the Silver State when it comes to marijuana drug testing — at least not yet.
“We have hundreds of clients statewide, and we have one employer in the whole state that removed marijuana from their panel,” said Honey, raising her index finger. “One.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.