Michigan drug testing has a real problem and it is not likely what you might think it would be. Some manufacturing and transportation employers are either opting out of drug testing or are simply overlooking positive drug tests having to do with marijuana because otherwise they would not have enough employees. There certainly are some jobs where drug testing for THC is not as important and will have more to do with an employer’s biases, however there are other jobs where sobriety is very important. Some manufacturing jobs are dangerous and need to have a person’s full attention at all times. Other jobs involve driving massive trucks, buses or other large vehicles that obviously anyone would want the driver to be sober. Could the same DUI testing technology that is being used by police and still being developed, be used by employers to see if employees have active THC in their system when they come into work?
A Macomb County factory owner sees a chance to increase production at his metal-stamping plant. He puts out a call for job applicants and dozens respond.
About half are rejected. Why? They cannot pass a basic pre-employment drug test.
A major manufacturing facility in Detroit furloughs workers during a downturn. When 100 of the workers are called back several months later, every one of them fails the company’s drug screening, mostly for marijuana.
In Traverse City, an addiction treatment center surveys 30 companies in across the region and finds only 1-in-4 conduct drug tests. The reason: They fear the results would require them to reject or fire the workers they desperately need.
“More often than not, we are finding that employers are not testing because of that problem,” said Chris Hindbaugh, executive director of Addiction Treatment Services. “They’d rather not know. And that’s dangerous.”
Across Michigan, employers say they can’t fill job openings because too many people can’t pass a drug test. Shortages are particularly acute in manufacturing, construction, warehousing or shipping companies, which routinely impose pre-employment drug screening for workers who operate heavy machinery or heavy-haul trucks.
In response to worker shortages, some companies are either not testing workers or skirting the results. One example is in the service industries, from retail to restaurants, because business owners often don’t view accidents as a serious issue. Others are scaling back by only testing for illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, but not for abuse of prescription medicines such as opioids.
“That’s why we don’t drug test,” an executive at a Macomb County mold-making manufacturer told Bridge. “Because if we did, we’d have no employees.”
The stress that substance abuse places on businesses and their workers shows up in higher rates of absenteeism, workplace injury and impaired performance, particularly in physically demanding industries. And because most companies lack comprehensive drug programs, fewer workers get the long-term (and often costly) treatment experts say they need to beat their addiction, even as Michigan sinks further into an opioid crisis.
Instead, workers are simply fired, perpetuating the cycle.
“It’s certainly a major topic of discussion,” said Andy Johnston, a Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce vice president. “Employers are struggling to fill open positions and the inability (of applicants) to pass a drug test is certainly a concern. It’s really tough to deal with. It makes it tough to find a qualified job pool.”