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Delayed Drug Test Results?

You’ve just extended a job offer to an exceptional candidate for a position you’ve been longing to fulfill within the company, you’re understaffed, this candidate is ready to start working, and here you are 6 days later waiting for that pre-employment drug test result.

Sometimes there may be an extended lag time from the moment we send someone for a drug test to the time we receive that result. This can trigger a sense of urgency, and once you add in the “unknown” factor of WHEN will I get this test result and WHY is it taking so long”, it can get a bit frustrating.

The frustration can be a result of the “unknown” factor and frankly not feeling in control. To help with the “unknown” here are some reasons WHY that drug test result might be taking longer than you expected.

  1. Testing Method – Urine, oral, blood, and hair each have different turnaround times. If you have changed your testing method, it would be good to talk to your testing vendor to understand if the turn-around time you are used to is different.
  2. Transit Delay – If the specimen was collected after business hours or just before the weekend, there is a chance that the collection happened after the couriers completed their scheduled pickups for that day (e.g., Lab Couriers, FedEx, UPS) which would postpone the specimen reaching the laboratory by at least 1 business day. Another element that could delay a courier’s schedule is extreme weather conditions, and reserved holidays.
  3. Non-Negative Test Result – The initial drug screen analyzes the specimen to identify if any drugs within the employer’s selected panel are detected, and if a drug is detected, it is then sent to the laboratory to undergo a secondary analysis test (e.g., Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry) which involves converting the specimen to a gas to pin down exactly how much of the drug is present.
  4. Medical Review Officer (MRO) – If the second analysis test (GC/MS) confirms that the test is over your company’s established cut-off level, it is now required that a Medical Review Officer examine the result and attempt to validate why this substance is present within the specimen by verifying any legal prescriptions the donor may possess. This process usually consists of the MRO attempting to contact the donor three (3) separate times within 24 hours, and if no contact is achieved, the MRO will instruct the donor to contact them within 72 hours. If the donor fails to connect with the MRO within the 72-hour timeframe, the test result will be released to the employer.

Of course, the most common barrier to the MRO process is smart phones! Most of us have our unknown callers blocked and some of us (especially younger generations) are not great about checking their voicemail, and some people have never even set up their voicemail!

This is one part of the process where you could help! Whenever you send an employee for a test, remind them to change the setting on their phone to accept calls from unknown numbers and to be sure to check their voicemail, in case the MRO needs to contact them. 

It can be tough to wait for a test result, particularly if the employee is off work while you wait, like in the case of a “for cause” test, like Reasonable Suspicion or Post-accident. Of course, if there are warning signs that someone is under the influence on the job, it is best practice to keep them off the job until you have a negative test result. As for post-accident tests (without any signs of reasonable suspicion in play) – it really depends on what your policy says! Double-check your policy for any information about an employee’s compensation and return-to-duty status after a post-accident test.

Most tests, however, the employee is working, like in the case of new hire tests, random, and contractor or government required tests. Don’t assume that just because it is taking longer that there is a problem or that it is going to be positive. Take a breath, revisit the list above, keep calm and carry on!

If you have any questions, reach out to Working Partners® at (614) 337-8200.