Maryland Employers Now Allowed to Conduct On-Site Drug Testing For Job Applicants

Date: November 12, 2001

Recently, the Maryland legislature passed a bill authorizing Maryland employers to conduct on-site drug testing of job applicants. The law became effective on October 1, 2001. It does not apply to testing of current employees. Under existing Maryland law, passed in 1989, employer substance abuse testing is limited to state certified labs. The law contains a series of procedural safeguards such as retesting of an original positive result, notification to the employee being tested of his/her rights, chain of custody safeguards, etc. The new law, in allowing on-site testing, offers employers several advantages, primarily cost savings as compared to using a commercial laboratory, and time savings as a result of a conclusion within minutes of taking the test. Job applicants may be tested at either the employer’s work site or other appropriate collection sites, such as a physician’s office. Employers conducting on-site drug screening must: (1) establish a program to train preliminary screening operators; (2) register with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and (3) have a medical review officer who is a licensed physician with knowledge of drug-abuse disorders and drug and alcohol testing, review results that test positive after laboratory confirmation. The employer must use tamperproof containers and follow chain-of-custody procedures to ensure the integrity of the collection process. The employer also must submit positive preliminary screenings to a licensed laboratory for confirmation by the “GC/MS” test. Any positive drug test that is confirmed must be reviewed by the employer’s medical review officer. To be eligible under the new law, on-site testing devices must meet rigorous standards. They must be FDA-approved for commercial distribution, which requires the submission of data supporting the accuracy, precision, sensitivity and stability of the testing device. Furthermore, the bill requires that on-site testing devices meet federal “cutoff levels” for the detection of controlled substances established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. These levels provide a standardized tool for measuring how much of a specific drug must be detected in a specimen to register positive. Concerns about false positives are lessened by high cut-off levels in both laboratory and on-site drug testing. As of this writing, in that the law is so new, we are unable to report on its effectiveness or how widely it is being implemented.