Drug-free workplace are initiatives in place to protect employers and employees from workplace substance abuse. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 was enacted to establish guidelines for employers with the purpose of maintaining a drug-free workplace environment. Employees are subject to drug testing, and must be afforded confidentiality and a fair drug testing policy.

What is the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988?

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 provides that some federal contractors, and all federal grantees must agree to providing drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or a grant from any federal agency.

There are different components for meeting the drug-free workplace requirements, based on whether the contractor or grantee is an individual or organization. An organization will typically have more extensive steps it has to take to achieve a drug-free workplace environment.

Does the Act Apply to Every Organization?

The Drug-Free Workplace Act only applies to organizations that have contracts with the federal government of $100,000 or more, and all organizations that receive federal grants, regardless of size.

What Does the Act Require Organizations to Do?

The Act requires organizations to do the following:

  • At a minimum, organizations must prepare and distribute a formal drug-free workplace policy statement. Such statement must layout and clearly describe the prohibition of the manufacture, use, and distribution of controlled substances in the workplace. This statement must also specify the consequences of violating this policy.
  • Establish a drug-free awareness program. The program should detail the dangers of substance use, the requirements of the drug-free policy, and information regarding rehabilitation, counseling, and employee assistance programs (EAPs).
  • The organization must ensure that all employees understand their own reporting obligations. For instance, under the terms of the Act, employees must inform their employer within five calendar days upon conviction of a criminal drug violation.
  • Within 10 days, the employer must notify the federal contracting agency of a covered employee’s criminal drug violation conviction.
  • The employer must take direct action against an employee for a workplace drug violation conviction, such as requiring the employee to attend treatment, or imposing a penalty.
  • The employer must continue to make every effort to meet the requirements of the Drug-Free Workplace Act. Failure to comply could result in a variety of penalties, including the loss of the grant or contract.

Do Employees Have to Follow the Guidelines in the Act?

All employees are required to follow the guidelines in the Drug-Free Workplace Act. Failure to comply could result in various penalties, such as being required to attend counseling or rehabilitation, penalties, or termination.

Will My Company Get in Trouble for Not Following the Guidelines?

Any company that is not in compliance with the Act’s guidelines may be penalized in one or more ways, including having their contract or grant suspended or terminated.

In addition to the possibility of having their grant or contract suspended or terminated, the employer may be prohibited from receiving or participating in any future contracts or grants for a period of no more than five years.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer About the Drug-Free Workplace Act?

If you have any questions about the Drug-Free Workplace Act and how to implement it in your business/workplace, then you should consult a local employment attorney. They will be able to provide assistance and guidance for any issues related to compliance with the Act and government requirements.

If you believe you were wrongfully terminated and your employer cited this Act as the reason for termination, then it's important to keep all relevant documents before you contact an employer lawyer near you.