Pre-employment drug testing

Maintain a safe and productive work environment by implementing an employment drug testing program with Checkr.


Checkr Customer

Top reasons employers conduct drug testing

For many industries and organizations, pre-employment drug testing helps maintain a safer, more productive work environment. Here are three reasons to drug test for employment:

Promote high standards of safety

Pre-employment and routine drug testing protects the safety, health, and welfare of employees and customers.

Comply with regulations

Industry-specific laws and regulations, as well as your corporate policy, may require drug testing.

Lower workers' compensation rates

Drug screening helps prevent on-the-job accidents and injuries related to alcohol or drug use.

Why drug testing is important

The nation’s ongoing crisis of illegal substance abuse makes drug screening for employment a growing focus for employers across the country. A drug screening program helps:

Prevent drug use on the job

Routine drug screening helps ensure employees remain free of substance abuse on and off the job.

Reduce absenteeism and turnover

Drug-free workplace policies can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity and worker retention.

Safeguard assets

Drug testing may help prevent fraud, embezzlement, or other forms of workplace theft to fund an addiction problem.

“Knowing we can trust Checkr helps our clients trust us”

“Checkr has been a wonderful partner. We like the Checkr has allowed our organization to expand across city and state lines to help support needs from health, drug and background screenings all across the country.” 
Josh N.
Managing Partner at The Center Staffing Services
“The Checkr onsite drug screening has really changed the game for us to be able to quickly report and comply with regulatory requirements when a safety incident occurs. There are many onsite drug screening options, but we have not found one that works as well as the Checkr onsite drug screenings do.”
Jamie Polk
VP of Human Resources and Safety at FHI

Checkr’s pre-employment drug tests

Checkr empowers you to carry out comprehensive checks while remaining in compliance with all federal and state laws. With Checkr, you can customize background check and lab-based drug test packages to align with your company’s drug policy. Candidates have access to more than 6,100 clinics across the country, and results are returned to your Checkr dashboard for easy review. Checkr also offers onsite oral fluid drug testing.

Multi-panel drug screenings

Test options are available for any combination of drugs, from 4- to 10-panel screens. These include blood, urine, hair, and breath tests. Both lab-based and onsite screening is available.

Onsite drug screening

Onsite testing enables you to administer tests at your desired location, giving you control and flexibility over when and where your testing takes place. Results are same-day, and returned to your Checkr dashboard.

Occupational health screening

Determine a candidate’s physical fitness for a job with a specialized medical evaluation, which includes a physical exam and may include a drug test. Learn more.

Advantages of lab-based drug testing with Checkr

Checkr’s technology handles the logistics of scheduling candidates and interpreting results so you can manage everything in one central system. At Checkr, we help you:

Improve the candidate experience

We simplify the drug test process, making it easy for candidates to schedule and locate a nearby test location.

Reduce candidate drop off

Our candidate portal makes getting support easy, which reduces frustration and keeps candidates in the funnel.

Improve report ordering efficiency

The Checkr dashboard makes it easy for you to customize your drug test packages based on location and position.

Advantages of onsite drug testing with Checkr

Get greater control over your drug screening program with onsite testing. By administering tests onsite, you no longer have to rely on varying clinic availability and lab processing times.

Rapid drug testing results

Tests are administered in-person, onsite and results are delivered same-day, saving you valuable time.

Routine or reasonable suspicion testing

In the event of incident testing, tests can be ordered and completed instantly onsite from a single device.

Scalable drug testing experience

Our onsite offering is fully integrated with the Checkr dashboard, so you can order, view, and manage everything in one central system.

Which drug testing program works for your organization?

Onsite drug testing

  • Administered onsite
  • Collected by the employer
  • Same-day results
  • Oral fluid (saliva) collection
  • Nearly identical results: 98% or better accuracy
  • Ideal for in-person work environments

Lab-based testing

  • Candidates must go to a lab site (and may be required to book an appointment)
  • Results in 2-5 business days
  • Options include: oral fluid, urine, blood, hair, and sweat
  • More flexible for remote working

Get started with pre-employment drug testing.

Frequently asked questions

Learn more about pre-employment drug testing

Conducting pre-employment drug tests can help employers maintain a healthy work environment, prevent workplace accidents, and reduce absenteeism. Drug testing is legally required in some industries, or employers may ask candidates to submit to drug testing even if not required by local, state, or federal regulations.

Get fast, accurate, multi-panel drug screenings with Checkr

As with all types of background screenings, however, employers must be careful to ensure that their pre-employment drug testing practices are in compliance with employment laws and regulations. Let’s take a closer look at what employers need to know about pre-employment drug testing, including what shows up on drug tests, common testing types, laws that may apply.

What is pre-employment drug testing?

Pre-employment drug testing analyzes specimens such as oral fluid, blood, hair, or urine to detect the presence of controlled substances or alcohol. In some jobs, such as those in industries regulated by the US Department of Transportation (DOT), drug testing is a condition of employment. In others, employers use drug testing to maintain a drug-free workplace. Pre-employment drug testing is also commonly used in roles where impairment could cause a safety risk to employees or others, such as healthcare, childcare, construction, or manufacturing.

What does a pre-employment drug test screen for?

Pre-employment drug tests screen for a variety of controlled substances depending on the type of test the employer chooses to conduct. A 5-panel drug test, one of the most common types of pre-employment drug screening, tests for the presence of amphetamines, cannabinoids (THC), cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).

Other substances that pre-employment drug tests typically screen for include:

  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Marijuana
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)
  • Propoxyphen

Drug screenings are described as “panels,” each testing a different number of substances. In addition to a 5-panel test, there are 7-panel, 9-panel, 10-panel tests and so forth. Checkr also offers a 4-panel test to help employers comply with local or state regulations that prohibit testing job candidates or employees for marijuana (THC).

What are the most common pre-employment drug testing methods?

Common drug screening methods include urine testing, hair testing, saliva testing, and breath alcohol testing. 

  • Urine testing or urinalysis, the most common drug test for employment, is the approved method of federally mandated drug testing. Urinalysis checks urine samples for the presence of metabolites, which are trace elements that stay in an individual’s system and appear in urine samples after a drug’s effects have worn off.
  • Hair testing is among the most reliable drug screening methods and can detect substances up to 90 days after use.
  • Oral fluid testing, also called mouth swab drug tests or saliva testing, is performed by swabbing the inside of the cheek. This is a quick and cost-effective method; oral fluid samples can typically be analyzed in minutes on-site. However, oral fluid testing may not be as accurate as blood or urine tests.
  • Breath alcohol testing uses a breathalyzer to detect alcohol up to 12 hours after imbibing. Unlike other types of drug tests that may reveal previous drug use, breath alcohol testing can only tell if a person is intoxicated at the time of the test.
  • Blood tests may be used to test for drugs and alcohol, but can only detect substances in the blood at the time of testing. Because blood tests are invasive and costly, they are less frequently used by employers.

Get fast, accurate, multi-panel drug screenings with Checkr

When should candidates and employees receive drug tests?

Drug tests for employment can be conducted on both candidates and employees, subject to relevant federal and state employment laws.

When do employers drug test new hires? Pre-employment drug testing is usually done as part of the background check process. Drug testing may be required by federal, state, or industry regulations before a new hire can begin work. In some states, employers must make a conditional offer of employment before asking candidates to take a drug test.

Employees may be subject to the following drug tests:

  • Periodic drug tests are conducted at specified times, such as when an employee takes a new position in the company or moves to a new department.
  • Random drug testing may be used to help maintain a drug-free workplace. If your organization conducts random drug testing, it’s important to avoid bias and use objective selection methods (generally randomizing software). Disproportionately testing employees of a certain race, age, sexual orientation, or other protected class could lead to charges of discrimination.
  • Post-accident tests are used after an employee is involved in a workplace accident to detect whether drug or alcohol use was a factor.
  • Return-to-duty testing may be used when an employee returns to work after violating the company’s drug use policy.
  • Reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work could be cause for drug testing, subject to applicable laws.

Why employers conduct pre-employment drug tests

Employers typically conduct pre-employment drug testing to promote safety in the workplace, comply with industry-specific laws requiring drug testing, and help prevent on-the-job substance use.

Drug testing can help create a safer work environment for the public and your workplace by preventing accidents and injuries caused when employees are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This can also help organizations mitigate liability risk and may lower their worker’s compensation costs.

By preventing substance abuse at work, drug screening can enhance workplace productivity and lower rates of absenteeism. It can also help prevent employee drug diversion in a pharmaceutical or medical setting.

Pre-employment drug testing laws to consider

Employers who conduct employment drug testing must be careful to comply with federal, state, and local laws regulating drug screenings.

Federal employment drug testing laws

These federal laws are most important for employers to know before conducting drug tests:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids employers from using drug screening in a way that discriminates against individuals in protected classes, including race, sex, religion, or nationality.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from denying employment, denying a promotion, or terminating someone because they are in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program or have a history of substance abuse.
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers that use a consumer reporting agency (CRA) for drug testing to disclose their intent to test for drugs and get written consent from the candidate. If deciding to deny employment based on results of a drug test, employers should follow the FCRA adverse action process.
  • The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires companies that receive federal grants or have federal contracts of $100,000 or more to implement a drug-free workplace policy and distribute it in writing.
  • The US Department of Defense (DOD) requires contractors with national security clearance to maintain a drug-free workplace program.
  • The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires pre-employment drug screening, plus ongoing testing, for DOT-regulated transportation workers.   

State employment drug testing laws

State pre-employment drug testing laws vary from state to state. Employers should consult their legal counsel to ensure that their drug testing policy complies with applicable state laws. In many states, employers cannot require candidates to take a drug test until a conditional job offer has been made. In some instances, the offer can be conditional on passing the drug test. Other states require job listings to state that employment drug testing is required or to provide candidates with a list of substances for which they may be tested.

Pre-built integrations with over 100 ATS and HRIS systems

Notably, state and local marijuana laws are changing rapidly. As a growing number of states legalize cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational use, employers must stay abreast of laws regulating marijuana testing in all jurisdictions where they’re hiring. For example, employers in New York City and Philadelphia are prohibited from requiring pre-employment marijuana screening for most positions. Even if your jurisdiction does not have similar prohibitions, testing for marijuana use may not be necessary unless the job in question is safety-sensitive, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

How to conduct pre-employment drug tests

When conducting pre-employment drug screening, human resources professionals should follow these best practices.

    1. Create a pre-employment drug testing policy. Work with your legal counsel to develop a company-wide drug screening policy in compliance with all applicable laws. This policy should be in writing and used to guide your drug testing program.

    2. Develop an internal process for conducting drug tests. Even with a drug testing policy in hand, there’s a lot to consider. Will testing be conducted in the workplace or off-site at a lab? Who will schedule and coordinate tests? How soon can you expect test results? 

    3. Communicate clearly with candidates and employees. Notify candidates and employees of your intent to require them to participate in a drug test and receive their consent in writing before proceeding. If an individual may be disqualified from employment following a certain test result, consider communicating that in writing as well.

The logistics of drug testing can be challenging and time-consuming. Poor communication with candidates can cause confusion and drop-off, and you want your employees to spend their time productive at work—not stalled by drug testing scheduling issues.

Working with a background check provider to conduct employment drug testing can ease the burden on your organization and provide a better candidate and employee experience. Checkr offers a range of drug testing panels that can be customized to fit your screening policy and help you stay compliant with applicable laws in your hiring locations. With both onsite testing and a clinic network of over 6,100 locations nationwide, Checkr can help you build a drug testing program that best fits your organization's requirements.

With Checkr, candidates and employees can easily schedule tests and get answers to their questions in Checkr’s candidate portal, and employers can conveniently order tests and view results all in the Checkr dashboard. 

Get fast, accurate, multi-panel drug screenings with Checkr

What happens if you fail a pre-employment drug test?

If a candidate fails a pre-employment drug test, the employer’s written drug policy and applicable federal, state, and local employment laws regarding drug testing will guide what happens next. For example, in West Virginia, an employer can use a confirmed positive test result or a refusal to test as a basis for denying employment. However, with the exception of certain positions, Nevada employers cannot refuse employment based on a candidate testing positive for marijuana.

Employers should also be mindful that drug tests for employment can sometimes return false positives, occasionally caused by legal prescription medication use or other testing issues. When you partner with Checkr to conduct employee drug testing, a certified Medical Review Officer (MRO) reviews any drug test results that may need clarification or additional testing. In some states, employers must give candidates a certain amount of time to explain a positive result.

Regardless of location, employers who use a CRA to conduct employment drug tests should follow the adverse action process required by the FCRA if they are considering denying employment based on the results of a drug test check.

How long does pre-employment drug screening take?

After a pre-employment drug test is conducted, results are usually available within 2-10 business days; on average, you can expect results in three days. Getting results may take longer if additional testing of a sample is required, if tests are performed at a clinic that doesn’t computerize records, or if the test is not negative and additional information is required from the candidate to clarify the reason for the result. Some on-site tests, such as oral fluid tests, may return results in seconds.

Scheduling employment drug screening can add to the time it takes to get test results. Working with a CRA like Checkr can speed up the process. Checkr makes it easy for candidates and employees to schedule drug tests conveniently, while our wide network of labs means you get results quickly.

More common questions about employment drug testing

What jobs require drug testing?

Although there isn’t a set list of roles requiring drug testing, many employers follow guidelines from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In general, industries that frequently conduct pre-employment drug testing include:

  • Government
  • Hospitals and health care
  • Transportation 
  • Construction
  • Aerospace and defense
  • Education
  • Private security 
  • Information Technology

How do you know if you passed a pre-employment drug test?

If none of the substances being tested for were found in your specimen, your drug test results will be negative. Checkr’s candidate portal allows candidates to conveniently check whether their employee drug testing results were negative or positive. 

Does a background check include a drug test?

If an organization conducts pre-employment drug testing, it generally takes place as part of a background check. In most states, however, employers must make a conditional offer of employment before asking candidates to undergo a drug test check. Not all companies perform pre-employment drug testing, but it is required by law in some safety-sensitive jobs, such as those regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

How much does a drug test cost?

The cost of a drug test can vary from under $10 to over $500 depending on the screening method, the number of substances being tested for, and your drug testing process (onsite vs. laboratory). Employers typically pay for the cost of employee drug testing. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the time that an employee spends taking a drug test is considered hours worked, so a speedy process with an efficient drug testing service could help you lower your total cost per test.

Join 100k employers running faster background checks with Checkr

Will alcohol fail a pre-employment drug test?

Breath alcohol testing can detect alcohol up to 12 hours after an individual has a single drink and will show whether you are intoxicated at the time of testing. In jobs where being intoxicated could cause legal liability, such as operating heavy machinery, this could be grounds for denying employment. However, what happens after a positive alcohol test also depends on applicable federal, state, and local employment laws. 

Get started on pre-employment drug testing with Checkr

Managing your employment drug screening program is simple when you partner with Checkr. Checkr offers a wide range of employment drug tests to choose from, including standard multi-panel and DOT-compliant screenings, for streamlined hiring. Employers can easily add drug testing to an employment background screening, while candidates can conveniently schedule drug tests online. Choose from rapid, on-site drug testing or testing through an extensive network of over 6,100 labs. Both options deliver timely, reliable results with easy-to-read reports. 

Get fast, accurate, multi-panel drug screenings with Checkr


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Explore more screenings with Checkr

Health screenings and physicals

Evaluate a candidate's overall health and ability to meet the physical requirements of a position.

MVR checks

Assess information in a candidate's driving record, such as license status and endorsements.

Looking for employment drug testing?

We’ve built the most advanced background check toolset in the industry to make hiring faster, easier, more accurate, and lower risk. Set up an account or talk to one of our sales associates today.