How to Handle Positive Drug Test Results: A Guide for Employers

This guide provides a step-by-step approach for employers on how to manage positive drug test results effectively.

LTS Team

4/19/20242 min read


Step 1: Confirm the Test Results

Before taking any action, ensure that the initial positive result is confirmed through a rigorous, scientifically reliable confirmatory test. This usually involves:

- Sending the original sample to an accredited laboratory for confirmation testing.

- Using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) or an equivalent scientifically accepted method ensures accuracy.

Step 2: Notify the Employee

Once the positive result is confirmed, arrange a confidential meeting with the employee to discuss the result. During this meeting:

- Present the test results to the employee.

- Allow the employee to explain or provide any relevant information or context that might affect the interpretation of the results, such as prescription medications.

Step 3: Review Company Policy

Before deciding on the appropriate course of action, review your company’s drug and alcohol policy together with your human resources department to ensure that your next steps are consistent with company policy and legal requirements. Consider:

- The specific guidelines outlined for handling positive drug tests.

- Any disciplinary procedures that the company policy mandates.

Step 4: Take Appropriate Action

Depending on the company policy and the nature of the job, you may need to take one of several possible actions:

- Immediate suspension or termination if the policy and severity of the situation warrant it.

- Referral to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a substance abuse professional (SAP) for assessment and possible treatment recommendations.

- Reassignment to a non-safety-sensitive position, if applicable and available.

Step 5: Document Everything

Documentation is crucial in handling positive drug test results. Record all actions taken, including:

- Details of the confirmation test.

- Notes from the meeting with the employee.

- All decisions made, along with justifications for these decisions based on company policy.

Step 6: Follow Up

If the employee remains with the company, it’s important to follow up on their progress. This might include:

- Scheduled or random drug testing as outlined by a return-to-duty agreement.

- Regular check-ins with a supervisor or HR to ensure compliance with any treatment or rehabilitation requirements.


Handling a positive drug test result requires a thoughtful, systematic approach that respects the rights of the employee while maintaining workplace safety and productivity. By adhering to established protocols and legal guidelines, employers can manage these challenging situations effectively and fairly.

Navigating the aftermath of a positive drug test result in the workplace can be challenging. It's crucial for employers to handle these situations with a well-defined process that is fair, consistent, and legally compliant.