Summary: Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988
Summary of Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988; Drug-Free Workplace Policy, Training, Employee Assistance
Programs, Testing, Crisis Management, Written Drug Policy
As part of omnibus anti-drug legislation, Congress enacted the
Drug-Free Workplace Act (DFWA) of 1988. The act requires federal
grantees and contractors to certify that they maintain a drug-free
Summit Loss Prevention Consulting offers a brief summary of the general rules
and components of Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. A large number of
private businesses have successfully incorporated components of the Act
into their own workplace drug policy.
Components of the Drug-Free Workplace Act Works
Grantees must establish a written policy that informs employees that the
unlawful possession, distribution or manufacturing of a controlled substance in the workplace is prohibited. Thirty-five federal agencies adopted a common rule that sets forth requirements for grantee compliance with the act.
Employers implement drug-free workplace programs to protect their
businesses from the impact of drug and alcohol abuse. A drug-free
workplace program generally includes five components: a drug-free
workplace policy, supervisor training, employee education, employee
assistance and drug testing.
Although employers may
choose not to include all five components, it is
recommended that all be explored when developing a
drug-free workplace program. Research shows that more
components may lead to a more effective program. Click on link below to
scroll down to an explanation of the components of the DFWA and
other aspects of a successful drug-free workplace program.
Program Planning and Philosophy
Before considering the different components of a drug-free workplace program,
employers should examine the needs of their workforce and organization and take steps to ensure the program they design will work well in their company.
Because every business is unique, there is no one right way to establish a drug-free workplace program. Rather, each organization’s program should match its specific needs.
A careful assessment will determine which program elements are the most feasible and beneficial, as well as which may be unnecessary or unsuitable. Furthermore, many companies find it helpful to ask for input from employees during this process.
Drug-Free Workplace Policy
A written drug-free workplace policy is the
foundation of a drug-free workplace program. Every
organization’s policy should be unique and tailored to
meet its specific needs; however, all effective policies
have a few aspects in common, including:
- Why the policy is being implemented.
Rationale can be as simple as a company being
committed to protecting the safety, health and
well being of its employees and patrons and
recognizing that abuse of alcohol and other
drugs compromises this dedication.
- A clear description of prohibited
behaviors. At a minimum, this should
include the following statement: “The use,
possession, transfer or sale of illegal drugs by
employees is prohibited.”
- An explanation of the consequences
for violating the policy. There may
include discipline up to and including
termination and/or referral for assistance.
Consequences should be consistent with existing
personnel policies and procedures and any
applicable state laws.
- Sharing all policies with all employees is essential
for success; therefore, employers should be certain that
all employees are aware of the policy and drug-free
After developing a drug-free workplace policy, an
organization should train those individuals closest to
its workforce—supervisors. Training should ensure that
- The drug-free workplace policy
- Ways to recognize and deal with employees who
have performance problems that may be related to
alcohol and other drugs
- How to refer employees to available assistance
In relation to a drug-free workplace program,
supervisors’ responsibilities should include monitoring
employees’ performance, staying alert to and documenting
performance problems, and enforcing the policy.
However, supervisors should not be expected to diagnose
alcohol- and drug-related problems or provide counseling
to employees who may have them.
Note: If supervisors are responsible for making
referrals for drug testing based on reasonable
suspicion, they also must be trained on how to make that
An effective drug and alcohol education program will
employees with the information they need to fully
understand, cooperate with and benefit from their
company’s drug-free workplace program.
employee education programs provide company-specific
information, such as the details of the drug-free
workplace policy, as well as generalized information
about the nature of alcohol and drug addiction; its
impact on work performance, health and personal life;
and types of help available for individuals with related
All employees should participate,
and the message should be ongoing basis through a
variety of means. Forums for employee education may
include home mailings, workplace displays, brown-bag
lunches, guest speakers, seminars and sessions at new
Providing assistance or support is a critical component
of a drug-free workplace program for employees
who have problems with alcohol and other drugs.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are generally
the most effective vehicle for addressing poor workplace
performance that may stem from an employee’s
personal problems, including the abuse of alcohol or other drugs. EAPs are an excellent benefit to employees and their
families and clearly demonstrate employers’ respect for
EAP's also offer an alternative to dismissal and minimize an
employer’s legal vulnerability by
demonstrating efforts to support employees. In addition
to counseling and referrals, many EAPs offer other
related services, such as supervisor training and
At a minimum, businesses should maintain a resource
file about community-based resources, treatment
programs and help-lines from which employees can access information.
Employers decide to drug test employees for a
variety of reasons, such as deterring and detecting drug
use, as well as providing concrete evidence for
intervention, referral to treatment and/or disciplinary
action. Before deciding to conduct testing, employers
should consider a few factors, including:
will be tested? Options may include all staff,
job applicants and/or employees in safety-sensitive
When will tests be conducted?
Possibilities including pre-employment, upon reasonable
suspicion or for cause, post-accident, randomly,
periodically and post-rehabilitation.
Which drugs will be tested for? Options
including testing applicants and employees for illegal
drugs and testing employees for a broader range of
substance, including alcohol and certain prescription
How will tests be conducted? Different
testing modes are available, and many states have laws
that dictate which may and may not be used.
Employers also must be familiar with any
local, state and Federal laws
(U.S. Dept. of Labor web site opens in new window) or any collective
bargaining agreements that may impact when, where and
how testing is performed. It is strongly recommended
that legal counsel be sought before starting any testing
Having a drug-free workplace program in place is the
best line of defense against alcohol- or drug-related
problems in the workplace; however, a company cannot put
a program into place overnight, as it requires careful
consideration and planning.
Crisis situations involving alcohol and other drugs
can be difficult to manage. In absence of a drug-free
workplace policy and program, employers should
proceed with extreme caution in addressing any existing
For information about, or assistance in establishing, a Drug-Free Workplace, call 317-363-8312, send email to
info@SummitLossPrevention.com. or submit the short form below: