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Home > Corporate LP Programs > Substance Abuse > Drug-Free Workplace Act

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 workplace.

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 workplace program.

Supervisor Training

After developing a drug-free workplace policy, an organization should train those individuals closest to its workforce—supervisors. Training should ensure that supervisors understand:

  • 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 determination.

Employee Education

An effective drug and alcohol education program will provide employees with the information they need to fully understand, cooperate with and benefit from their company’s drug-free workplace program.

Effective 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 problems.

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 employee orientation.

Employee Assistance

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 their staff.

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 employee education.

At a minimum, businesses should maintain a resource file about community-based resources, treatment programs and help-lines from which employees can access information.

Drug Testing

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:

Who will be tested? Options may include all staff, job applicants and/or employees in safety-sensitive positions.

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 drugs.

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 program.

Crisis Management

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 problem situations.

For information about, or assistance in establishing, a Drug-Free Workplace, call 317-363-8312, send email to or submit the short form below:




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