Arbitrator Finds in Favor of Employer Regarding Required Post-Accident Drug Testing

The decision determined that the employer had the right to demand drug tests from two employees in order to determine the cause of a workplace accident.

A forklift struck a steel beam, causing damage to the equipment at Veyance Technologies, Inc. in Marysville, OH. The one assigned forklift driver claimed that she had gone to the bathroom and left the key with the forklift. The assigned forklift driver's co-worker, and close friend, stated that she had taken the forklift and was the one responsible for striking the beam.

The employer was skeptical of the accounts it received from both employees for several reasons, including the nature of their relationship, an alleged eye witness account contradicting their story, and a prior disciplinary action lodged against the assigned forklift driver for violations of the company's drug and alcohol policy. As such, the employer instructed each of them to submit to a post-accident drug test.

By company rules, an accident of this nature justified requiring a drug test. The assigned forklift driver, who had claimed she was not the individual driving at the time of the accident, refused. The employer afforded the employee a few additional days to reconsider, but ultimately, she did not submit to the test and she was terminated.

Contending that the employer only had the right to test one employee, the terminated worker filed a grievance. The case went to arbitration and it was determined that the employer was justified in terminating the employee. In assessing the facts, the arbitrator surmised that the employer's suspicions were reasonable and therefore requiring a drug test from each employee was justified. Due to the nature of the environment, the employer's decision was made based on the best interests of its staff's safety.

The arbitrator concluded that the employer acted reasonably and within its rights to require both employees to take a drug test, since the safety of all employees was at risk. As such, the employer had just cause to terminate the forklift driver for her refusal to submit to drug testing.

Employers are encouraged to review policies regarding drug and alcohol violations as well as grounds for termination in the event policies are violated. Employers should also review all internal policies regarding grounds for requiring post-accident drug testing and ensure that all are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

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