So You Think You Can Drug Test? Factor #9: Records Retention

Season’s Greetings from WorkforceQA! In between last minute Christmas shopping and figuring out travel plans, you may also be scrambling to get end-of-year testing records together (perhaps for a DOT or company audit). If you are, you’re not alone. Once the testing is completed, many employers struggle to ensure that they have kept accurate records, whether it’s to adhere to company policy, prepare for an audit, or simply to complete employee files for archiving and storage.

As you think about which testing records you need or don’t need, here are a few guiding principles:

1) Always ensure that you adhere to your own employer policy – sometimes you may find that it is actually more strict compared to external requirements (e.g., those of DOT agencies, client partners)

2) Keep drug and alcohol testing records separate from personnel files; you do not want a drug test result next to a performance evaluation

3) Maintain secure testing files – due to the nature of testing, some entities may consider drug/alcohol tests as medical exams; all files should be under lock and key with well-defined and restricted access by authorized personnel only

4) Recognize when electronic v. physical records are required or acceptable; for instance, many employers typically don’t keep hard copies of negative test results if they can quickly access them electronically and print out results; DOT specifically states that, “If you store records electronically, where permitted by this part, you must ensure that the records are easily accessible, legible, and formatted and stored in an organized manner.”

5) Be especially mindful of alcohol testing records – keep in mind that for many employers, drug testing and alcohol testing records are processed differently – while drug test results typically go through a lab and Medical Review Officer (MRO), breath alcohol test results are instant and are communicated directly from the testing facility to the employer. So while your MRO may be able to help with your drug testing records, you may have to handle alcohol testing separately

Since many employers are subject to DOT testing regulations either directly or through state requirements (mirroring DOT regulations), DOT records retention requirements are often a helpful guide for how long certain records should be kept. See Table 1 below:

Table 1: DOT Records Retention Policy (49 CFR