Oct 6 (Reuters) – Workers at Wyatt Bassett’s furniture factory in Virginia are using powerful tools to strip the company’s trademark clothing and headgear, thereby screening new workers for drugs are useless.
Virginia last year legalized marijuana – the first state in the South to do so. The result is “a drug addiction that will inevitably put you out of a job,” said Bassett, CEO of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co., which has 575 employees.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden issued an executive order aimed at reforming the way the federal government deals with drugs.
The policy change should help many companies. With the drop in applicants, employers across the US are considering easing legal drug testing with concerns that this could affect safety and raise liability issues.
The US unemployment rate rose to 3.7% last month, but remains near a five-year low.
“With the war for talent and the lack of workers, especially in some lower-paying jobs, it is difficult to find and keep people – so many are deciding not to try, but for the safety-sensitive work,” says Julie Schweber, senior academic advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management. Companies with multiple operations in different parts of the country face a challenge, he said, because laws vary from country to country.
Biden’s order Thursday would grant amnesty for previous federal felonies for simple possession of marijuana. He also announced a review of how the drug is “regulated” or under federal law. The current schedule places it in the same class as heroin and LSD and a higher classification than fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The challenge of balancing workplace safety with the increasing prevalence – and legalization – of certain drugs is overwhelming for manufacturers and others who use dangerous equipment.
Last June, Amazon.com Inc. announced that positive tests for marijuana use would not disqualify people from jobs not regulated by the US Department of Transportation, such as truck drivers.
The e-commerce store – like many employers – said that it will treat the drug in the same way as alcohol, although the symptoms of its use will remain in the human body for a longer time. it comes out of some kind of test after the worker is free from the disease of his work. use. “We will continue to investigate impaired performance and test for drugs and alcohol in all post-accident incidents,” wrote former CEO Dave Clark, in a blog post at the time of the announcement.
Data from Quest Diagnostics, which conducts tests for the company, shows a steady increase in positive rates for marijuana tests over the past decade – like a wave. of authorization. In 2012, only 1.9% of workers not subject to federal drug testing requirements failed pre-employment screening. Last year, that increased to 4.1%. The jump in positive tests after accidents increased over the same period, from 2.4% to 6.7%.
Most Fortune 1000 companies have some form of screening, but many companies are dropping drug testing from the list, said Barry Sample, a senior science consultant who compiles Quest’s data. However, Quest estimates that between 30 and 35 million work-related drug tests are conducted in the US each year.
Most Quest tests use urine samples. Other tests rely on saliva or hair samples. “None of these tests can tell if a person is deficient,” says Sample. However, the tests only indicate the location of the drug on the set threshold.
Cannabis use for medical purposes is now legal in 37 states, recreational use is legal in 19. Quest data shows that states that allow recreational use of the drugs have higher positivity rates.
Model said many employers are changing screening practices to focus on drugs that remain illegal and where re-use in some industries is on the rise. In the manufacturing industry, for example, Quest saw an increase in the rate last year for methamphetamine and cocaine.
Insurance experts say it’s too early to tell if insurance rates will increase for companies that cut back on testing. “Nobody’s going to come out and say, ‘Wages are going up because more workers are being put on the job,'” said Mark Pew, a consultant who specializes in workers compensation insurance in Georgia. But if, over time, companies with lax drug testing policies have higher accident rates than those that adhere to stricter rules, that could change, he said.
Matt Zender, a senior vice president of employee benefits strategy with AmTrust Financial Services Inc., said that one factor that obscures or limits the impact of increased drug use on the work, the general movement to safer workplaces.
“If you just look at claims per 100 hours of work, people are getting injured less than in the past,” he said.
In the meantime, companies are continuing to adjust their approach to the issue. A plastic bag manufacturer in California, contacted by Reuters about their drug screening policy, was surprised to learn that its human resources department automatically rejects applicants who test positive for drugs.
“My nephew would never get a job if I forced that on him,” said Kevin Kelly, CEO of Emerald Packaging Inc. in Union City, Calif., said in an email. He said he had ordered his hiring managers to reduce requirements, adding that factory workers would not be allowed to slack off on the job. Cannabis use is completely legal in California.
Reporting by Timothy Aeppel in New York Editing by Claudia Parsons
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