You’ve got an exceptional applicant for an opening in the field service department. The person has good mechanical aptitude and good social skills. But there’s a problem. A check of the applicant’s driving record turns up an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. What do you do?

The easiest answer may be to put the application in the circular file and move on to the next candidate. But is it fair to the applicant? Is it always a wise business decision? What procedures should be followed when an applicant tests positive during a pre-employment drug screening?

The News put these questions and others to our Contractor Consultants and got a variety of responses. Here are the questions:

  • What is your company policy toward drug testing and background checks for job applicants?
  • Do you conduct random drug tests for employees?
  • Do you check on driving records with the department of motor vehicles (DMV)?
  • What is your policy if applicants or employees fail a drug test or have too many points on their driving record? Can they retake the test or return when their driving record improves?


    The newest member of The News’ Contractor Consultants is Ann Kahn, owner of Kahn Mechanical Contractors in Dallas, TX. She said her company has a no-tolerance approach to drug use or possession by employees. The company also has policies in place regarding job applicants.

    “Any job offer we make is conditioned upon the applicant’s successful passing of a drug test and physical, which are administered by a local occupational health clinic,” Kahn said.

    “The clinic sent a physical therapist to our shop several years ago and worked with the techs to see exactly what tasks they routinely perform in order to develop a pre-employment physical for us.”

    Charlie Klapperich said his company, Western Building Services/Comfort Systems USA (Denver, CO), is willing to let an applicant retest. “If an applicant tests positive on a drug test, he can then pay for a retest if he desires,” Klapperich said. “If the retest is negative, the person may then be employed.”

    Scott Getzschman, Getzschman Heating & Sheet Metal/Service Experts (Fremont, NE), said his company does pre-hire drug testing, and the company policy includes giving a person a second chance. “If an employee fails a drug test, he has the opportunity to retain his employment if he takes a drug help class or diversion program, plus he has to pay for monthly drug screens for a minimum of one year,” Getzschman said. “The employee either does this or he is let go.”

    The consensus of most consultants is that if an applicant tests positive for drug use, he or she could rectify the problem at a later time. Aaron York, Aaron York’s Quality A/C (Indianapolis, IN), believes in a second chance — after a specific time period.

    “If they fail the drug test, they are disqualified from consideration at that time,” York stated. “They may reapply after a year but are subject to the same pre-employment drug testing.”

    Bob Dobrowski, Ideal Service Co./Blue Dot (Hayward, CA), said the waiting time is considerably shorter if a person fails a drug test when applying for work at his company. “If we want to hire an individual and they fail a drug test, we will retest after 30 days,” he noted. “If they pass then, they will be retested at random if hired.”

    Three consultants said their companies do not do drug testing. Of these, Hank Bloom, Environ-mental Conditioning Systems (Mentor, OH), said his company monitors employees closely. Mary Marble, J.A. Marble Co. (Dear-born, MI), leaves drug testing to her employees’ local union.


    “We have the option to do random drug testing and it is used sparingly,” said Dave Dombrowski, Metro Services/ARS-ServiceMaster (Raleigh, NC). “However, we drug test everyone if any suspicion arises or if an accident has been involved.”

    “Random checks are required by many customers today, as are background checks,” said York. “Since Sept. 11, many more companies are requiring background checks, and I only see them becoming more commonplace.

    “Our youth of today need to understand the ramifications of excessive living. Schools must ensure that students comprehend the issues involved when they partake of illegal substances and drive recklessly.”

    Several of our consultants conduct random drug testing. Getzschman does it according to a specific schedule. “Random screening is quarterly, with approximately 2 to 3 employees per quarter,” he said.


    Contractors place a high importance on their employees’ driving records, especially if the workers drive a company vehicle in their normal course of work. All of The News’ consultants who responded said they check their applicants’ driving records before and during employment.

    “Depending on the severity of their driving record, they may or may not be hired,” said York. “Our insurance carrier must be willing to accept them as insurable or they must provide their own transportation.

    “If this is in service, they must also provide us with a certificate of insurance that complies with our limits, naming us as additional insured, at their expense, before they can work and until such time as the insurance carrier will accept their driving record. In installations, they are not required to drive a company vehicle, thus they may drive their own personal conveyance to and from the job.”

    Getting and keeping insurance policies on employees is a motivating factor for watching their driving records.

    “We obtain a DMV driver’s abstract on every person who operates a company vehicle,” said Roger Grochmal, Atlas Air/ ClimateCare (Mississauga, ON, Canada). “We also do this every year to maintain our ability to command the best insurance rates available to us.

    “If a driver gathers a number of points and the insurance company charges us a surcharge to insure that employee, the employee is required to pay the surcharge. If it persists, their employment is terminated.”

    “State Farm Insurance is our provider, and they will not insure people with DWIs within the past five years or too many wrecks or tickets,” said Tom Lawson, Advanced Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc. (Bossier City, LA).

    Kahn said her company has found some innovative ways to keep tabs on driving records — out of necessity. “Until two years ago, our insurance agent routinely ran an inquiry through the state about driving records,” she said. “They would not cover individuals with poor records, and we were unable to hire them.

    “When they stopped this practice, mostly for legal reasons, we began inserting an authorization to check the driving record with our employment application. Unfortunately, we haven’t followed up on these requests through the state as diligently as we should, but we are able to do some checking on driving records through the Internet. We also ask on the application for a listing of any motor vehicle violations which might appear on the applicant’s record.”

    Some consultants will not punish an employee with a bad driving record by dismissing them, but they will change the type of work they do. “If the employee has a large number of points, we monitor the driving behavior more closely, but we do not deny employment,” said Klapperich. “If their license is suspended or revoked, we will not employ them unless it is for a position that does not require them to drive.”

    “DMV records are run through the insurance carrier for insurability,” stated Dobrowski. “The individual could be hired with a bad record, say a 502 (drunk driving), but would not have company vehicle driving privileges.”

    Other contractors will monitor their drivers or recommend treatment programs. “If an employee gets a DUI in our employment, he again must take an alcohol-related diversion program and install a breathalyzer on his company vehicle for a period of one year,” said Getzschman.

    Marble said her company has no tolerance for bad drivers. “We check DMV records and if our insurance carrier says they are a risk, we do not hire them — hands down,” she said.

    Sidebar: Kahn Mechanical’s Drug Policy

    Ann Kahn of Kahn Mechanical (Dallas, TX) provided an excerpt from the section in her company’s policy manual entitled “Drug and Alcohol Abuse.”

    “Policy: The use, possession, concealment, manufacture, sale, distribution, dispensation, purchase, and being under the influence of drugs are strictly prohibited from all of the above described company premises. The illegal use of any drug is prohibited. Employees must not report for duty or be on company property or in a company vehicle while under the influence of drugs, or have drugs in their possession while on company property.”

    Publication date: 03/18/2002