We pre-employment drug screen all applicants. Manager started someone, against my better judgment, before we got drug screen results. Of course, came back positive for Marijuana. Manager told applicant to stay home today, but this manager is in love with this applicant and wants to make exception to policy to keep them on board. Our policy says that the applicant can have other half of their specimen tested at their own expense and if it comes back negative we reimburse them and they can start working for us. Applicant says they don’t smoke, but their husband does and that is why she probably tested positive. Manager wants to allow her to continue working and test her again in 30 days with her continued employment contingent on the results of that test.
Let me start by saying that I have never taken an illegal drug in my past and I don’t view it very highly. I try not to judge folks, but my history does affect my judgment so I am seeking outside advice. Also, to me Marijuana, while pretty widely accepted, is still Illegal. My thoughts are to follow policy and terminate them immediately and be along our merry little way. However, what are the pluses and minuses of making the exception. Of course, our Regional Manager brings it to my attention that we have made this exception in the past, but it was before my time here. Another point I gave the manager was that this person, while they may not be smoking it themselves, is living with someone that does. If the cops break down the door and bust them, chances are they may both be going to jail and now we have a whole other situation. My gut says follow procedure and do not make exception and set a precedent.
I’m with you, 100%. You really have no way of knowing if the person is lying or not, but do you want to start down that road? The drug screen is what it is. She may well be telling the truth, but how can you really believe that? Sure, I wasn’t the one inhaling…
Now, I did watch a Mythbuster’s episode about poppy seeds and that was rather frightening. It made me believe that drug testing isn’t quite so straight forward as we’d like to think it is. (HR according to Mythbusters…hmmm.) But, the problem you run into is that if you make one exception, what’s going to be the rules around the exception policy? (Horrors–rules for exceptions? I’ve been in HR way too long.)
But, yes, rules for exceptions. Think about how the rule would have to be written to allow this: “If candidate says, ‘that test gave a false positive’ or ‘someone put something in my drink’ or ‘it was just a poppyseed bagel’ then re-test in 30 days.” See, it sounds kind of silly.
Truth be told, I’m all in favor of meeting the needs of the individual–you want flex time, part time, telecommuting, I’m all there. You want to work with a positive drug screen? Hmmm, not so much.
The biggest problem in granting an exception is the appearance of favoritism, or discrimination. So, if this is a white woman who tested positive and you let her re-test in 30 days because the manager loves her, what happens if the next person to test positive is a so-so candidate that you made an offer to because you were desperate–and happens to be a black male? Oh joy. See you in court.
Now, as for drug testing in general–as I said, I watched Mythbusters and learned that a relatively small amount of poppy seeds can give you a false positive. Can walking through a smoky room where cigarettes aren’t the vice of choice lead to the same result? I don’t know. You might want to check with your vendor to ask what level of sensitivity you want to pick up. And make sure your vendor contacts the candidates for a list of the drugs they are taking legally. (Yes, I’ve had a candidate told he flunked the drug test only to find out that he was taking legally prescribed Ritalin. He’d tried to tell the vendor, they wouldn’t listen. So they just reported back to the company that he’d failed. HR had to call the vendor back, who then called the candidate’s physician and all was well–except he was unnecessarily embarrassed. I wasn’t in charge of the vendor contract, but if i had been, they would have been fired.)
But for now, I’d say, “I’m so sorry. Good luck with your job search.”