Reasonable Suspicion Testing: Signs to Look for and When to Implement

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Reasonable Suspicion Testing: Signs to Look for and When to Implement


To combat drug abuse in the workplace, employers have several ways to secure a safer working environment. A clear, concise, and comprehensive drug testing policy is critical, but employers also need to ensure their management is trained to identify drug and alcohol abuse on the job as soon as it begins.  

Reasonable suspicion  drug testing is often included as part of a company’s comprehensive drug testing policy, allowing employers to drug test an employee based off of evidence of drug use, (e.g., signs, symptoms, and behaviors) under direct observation. This is an added level of protection that remains in effect long after the initial pre-employment screening to continue to deter employees from using in the first place. 


When to Implement a Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test

If an employee is suspected to be under the influence, then a trained supervisor or manager may observe the employee using the signs below to help them determine if a reasonable suspicion drug test should be administered. Any time an employer feels it is necessary to administer a reasonable suspicion drug test, all information should be documented to meet compliance standards. The following are valid reasons to conduct a reasonable suspicion test:


  • Physical signs – Bloodshot eyes/dilated pupils, slurred speech, unsteady walk, shakes or tremors, unexplained sweating or shivering, fidgeting/inability to sit still, sleeping at work or difficulty staying awake
  • Behavioral signs – Attendance problems/tardiness, a pattern of absences or excessive absenteeism, a decline in performance/productivity, acting withdrawn from others
  • Psychological signs – Unexplained changes in personality or attitude, sudden mood changes, angry outbursts or inappropriate laughing, inability to focus or concentrate

What Can Employers Do?

When creating and implementing a comprehensive   drug testing policy  employers should include reasonable suspicion testing to prevent drug abuse in the workplace. This should be an addition to other methods of testing, such as   pre-employment,   random,   post-accident, and   Return-to-Duty (RTD).


“Employers have the opportunity to customize their company drug testing policy to ensure safe hires and prevent accidents from happening. An insufficient policy can compromise your company and employee’s safety, which is truly not worth the risk.”

– Frank Bernard VP of Compliance and Administration at DISA Global Solutions


MPCS offers reasonable suspicion training to help you maintain a safe working environment by ensuring that your Designated Employee Representative (DER), along with other managerial staff are fully prepared to address drug abuse and use in the workplace. When paired with other drug testing methodologies, proper documentation, and properly trained supervisors, reasonable suspicion drug testing will strengthen a company’s drug testing policy.


Best Practices

Here are a few best practices your company can follow when implementing reasonable suspicion drug testing in the workplace:

  • Include and implement reasonable suspicion drug testing in a clear and concise company drug testing policy.
  • Notify all employees that they are subject to reasonable suspicion drug testing according to the company policy.
  • Ensure the right personnel at your company receives reasonable suspicion drug testing training.
  • Always document all signs and symptoms leading up to and during a reasonable suspicion drug test.
  • If an employee is sent off-site for a reasonable suspicion drug test, do not allow them to drive themselves (especially a company car). This increases your liability because you already believe they may be under the influence.

Creating an all-encompassing drug testing policy helps to decrease absenteeism, accidents, and turnover, while increasing company morale and productivity.