Pre-employment background checks: Is a drug test part of a background check?

Background checks and drug testing are two of the most important methods that employers use to ascertain whether an employee is a good fit for the organization or not.

When companies hire candidates for open positions, they generally conduct a background check. It is important to know that a drug test is part of a background check, and many companies are required to conduct a drug test before hiring individuals. In some jurisdictions, it is on the decree of the organization if it wants to conduct the drug test before hiring or not.

Why pre-employment drug testing is required?

Many factors influence what employers want to include in their pre-employment background checks

Many companies across the United States are not obliged legally to conduct drug tests for employment purposes. Some states, however, restrict the local governments to execute drug testing for employment. In some cases, the pre-employment drug testing depends on the positions where the union is involved.

On the other hand, a unionized employer can negotiate with the union whether to conduct a pre-employment drug test or not.

However, all local, state, federal civil services jobs require individuals to undergo drug testing before (s)he is appointed for a position. These civil services jobs include maintenance workers, school workers, law enforcement personnel, social workers, and road construction workers.

In some organizations, where pre-employment drug testing is not mandatory, an employer can ask selected candidates to undergo testing to ensure their health safety. Similarly, people who work in the medical field, or operate heavy machinery, and operate motor vehicles are required to do the same.

If drug testing is not required, then why employers conduct it?

Many business owners emphasize the importance of conducting pre-employment drug tests even if it is not required by employment law.

What are some important facts that you should know about drug testing?

Depending on the state law or employer’s requirement, an applicant has to go through the test to maximize the contingency for the position. Different alcohol and drug tests are conducted by employers to check if the employees being hired are fit for the organization or not. Some of the most important drug tests include:

Pre-employment alcohol and drug screening policies

Some employers assess applicants based on the usage of illegal drugs as an important part of the employment process. They are also allowed by state laws to test the applicants for use of alcohol and prescription drugs.

Blood alcohol and drug screening

An employer can ask an employee to undergo a blood test to ascertain the chances of illegal drug consumption. The blood test offers a good insight into the presence of illegal drugs/alcohol at the time of screening.

The drugs that are typically screened for employment purposes include barbiturates, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), nicotine, opiates, and methamphetamines.

Breath alcohol test

A ‘Breathalyzer’ is used to conduct breath alcohol tests. It is used to measure the amount of drugs/alcohol in your blood through your breath. The test shows the results regarding the current consumption of the drugs. Generally, an ounce of alcohol remains for an hour in your bloodstream and can be measured through Breathalyzer.

Hair drug test

Also known as the hair follicle drug test, it can measure up to 90-day alcohol consumption. The hair test is suitable in conditions where it is used to test cocaine, opiates, marijuana, phencyclidine, and methamphetamine. To perform the test, technicians take the sample of hair closest to the scalp.

Mouth swab alcohol and drug test

A mouth swab test is also called an oral fluid test or a saliva test. It is also performed at post accidents, pre-employment, and regular screenings.

The saliva is tested to ascertain the chances of frequent drug use for the past two days. It is a non-invasive drug test.

Urine drug and alcohol test

For illegal use of drugs, applicants also have to undergo a urine drug test. The urine test is used to measure the residue of the drug in the body.

Bottom line

There isn’t, and there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to pre-employment background checks. Some organizations may consider a drug test as part of a background check. If you are planning to apply for any civil position or at a company that conducts a pre-employment drug test, then be conscious if you’re a drug addict.

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