How To Handle Expired Prescription Drug Use In The Workplace?

Last Updated on July 29, 2020 / Health, Safety & Security, Training & Development

Updated July 29, 2020

HR Question:

We recently had a situation where a longtime employee, with no prior incidences, took an expired prescription drug that was inhibiting her performance. After her drug test, she tested positive with it in her system and the script was older than one year. What should I do?

HR Answer:

This is certainly a tricky situation, and you are not alone in dealing with this challenge. A recent National Safety Council survey reports that more than 70% of employers have been impacted by prescription drugs, yet only 19% feel extremely prepared to deal with prescription drug misuse.

As you begin to assess your next steps, here are some things to consider:


What does your Drug Free Workplace Policy say? Typically, an acceptable deviation of a positive drug test is supplying a valid prescription from an attending physician. In this situation, the employee does not appear to have that if the drug was expired. What does your policy say about the consequences of a positive test? Take the opportunity to assess if you’ve covered as many conceivable scenarios as possible – from an expired prescription to innocently taking a family member’s prescription in an unusual circumstance.


This is why Drug Free Workplace training is so critical. Such training should inform employees and managers of exactly these types of situations and potential consequences so this scenario can be avoided. What does your policy say about training? Have you adhered to that?


What are the consequences of making an exception? If you make an exception for this individual, are you willing to make an exception the next time it happens to another employee (perhaps a lower performing employee)? Does making an exception impact the effectiveness of your Drug Free Workplace program?


Contact your Medical Review Officer (MRO) or find one that is familiar with your industry to gain some advice, as they are the experts. They will be able to assess whether or not the positive drug test is justified by the prescription or not, shedding some light on the next steps to take.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer in this situation. It is vitally important that you remain unbiased, fair, and that you do what’s best for your company. Carefully consider the impact of your decision on future situations that may arise.


Providing a Drug Free Workplace Policy and Training are incredibly important when it comes to the safety and security of your workplace and employees. Strategic HR can provide you with best practices, policies, and training when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace or any other needs concerning the Health, Safety and Security of your workforce. Contact us to learn more about how we can help to develop your Drug Free Workplace Policy and Customized Training or view our Online Drug Free Workplace Training.