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News & Press

July 9, 2010

June 2010 Newsletter

You Need to Know About Drug Testing, 10 Termination Mistakes to Avoid and Armed vs Unarmed Agents

This issue touches on three topics that are important to corporations and also valuable to their employees:

What You Need to Know About Drug Testing – Greg Kirsch, Director of Investigations and Pre-Employment Screening at U.S. Security Care, Inc., talks about what your company needs to know about drug screening.

10 Termination Mistakes to Avoid – Tom Owen, Director of Security at U.S. Security Care, Inc., provides the following 10 mistakes to avoid when terminating an employee.

When Should a Company Use Armed Versus Unarmed Agents – Christine Tumolo, Operations Manager at U.S. Security Care, Inc., provides advice to companies that are wrestling with this question.

If you have a security related question of any kind, please do not hesitate to contact us.  If there is a topic you would like to read about in our newsletter, write to us at piersond@usscinc.com.

Richard Wolfson
President
U.S. Security Care, Inc.


 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DRUG TESTING

Drug testing has become a way of life for many companies, especially in companies where an employee using drugs could potentially injure him or herself or fellow employees.  The following is a question and answer interview with Greg Kirsch, Director of Investigations and Pre-Employment Screening for U.S. Security Care, Inc., about what your company needs to know about drug screening.

What is employment based Drug Screening?

Kirsch:  “Employment based drug screening is the process of screening a job applicant or current employee for specific substances.  These substances can be anything from Schedule I to Schedule V such as Cocaine, PCP, Heroin, Oxycodone and anabolic steroids to routine regulated substances such as alcohol.”

Are there different categories of Drug Screening?

Kirsch:  “Typically, employment based drug screening is broken down into two categories, Five-Panel and 10- Panel urine based screening.  Facility administered drug screening is usually preferred, as it eliminates the necessity for internal employees to handle samples/specimens and interpret results, and it also provides for a well documented chain of custody of the test sample.  

“The Department of Transportation (DOT) maintains the strictest standards for drug screening, and their guidelines dictate a minimum of Five-Panel Facility Administered Screening with Medical Review Officer (MRO) certification on all positive results.  

“Five-Panel Screenings test for the following substances: Amphetamines, Cocaine Metabolite, Opiates, Phencyclidine (PCP), and Marijuana (THC) Metabolite.  Ten-Panel Screenings test for the same Five-Panels identified in the Five-Panel Screen, with the addition of the following: Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Methadone, Methaqualone, Propoxyphene

“The MRO certification is an additional step of reviewing the initial test thresholds to ensure that the readings are accurate.  Additionally, all samples are tested for a Creatinine (urinary) threshold.  Creatinine is a common byproduct produced by the human body that is passed in the urine.  

“If this threshold is below a specific amount, the sample is considered diluted, and therefore the individual must submit a new sample.  A low amount of Creatinine means the sample has too high of a water ratio, thus making any test results inconclusive.”

When should applicants/employees be screened?

Kirsch:  “An internal drug screening policy is something that must be determined by each company based on their needs and human resources policies.  If a company decides to implement a drug screening policy, it typically starts at the time of hire or job offer.  Since results are typically processed within a day or two, there are usually no delay issues in the hiring process.  

“We usually advise that each company implement some type of policy regarding the amount of time between when the individual is notified of the required screening and when they actually must submit (immediately, within an hour, 24 hours, etc) so that they do not have time to try to cleanse their system prior to submission. 

“Additionally, if a random drug screening policy is implemented, it is important to make sure that the system is truly random.   For example, if there is a pool of 20 employees, the same names must be available each time individuals are selected (assuming there is no turnover).  If “Employee A” is selected for a screening in the first half of 2010, their name must still be part of the selection pool when a name is selected in the second half of 2010.  

Otherwise, once that employee performs the screening in early 2010, they could then ingest substances without the fear of being caught for the remainder of 2010, because the second half selection would only be from a pool of 19 employees. 

If a company has employees that operate vehicles or machinery, it can also be helpful to have a Post-Incident Screening Policy.  This policy is implemented whenever there is a workplace or vehicle accident.  An established collection site location along with Chain of Custody forms should immediately be provided to the individuals involved in the incident at which point they should travel to the collection facility as soon as they are physically capable.  It can also be useful to add a Urine-Alcohol Panel to the test for Post-Incident Testing.”

Is there a process for challenging Positive Results?

Kirsch:  “An individual can test positive for a substance such as Opiates, specifically if they are taking prescribed pain medicine for a recent surgery, for example.  If an individual tests positive for a substance and claims to have a prescription for the substance, the MRO will review a copy of the prescription to determine if that substance would show up as the panel that came out positive and then issue a report update.  The MRO will also determine if the amount described in the prescription matches the ratio indicated in the result.”


 


 10 TERMINATION MISTAKES TO AVOID

Because of laws, potential lawsuits and concerns over employee morale when individuals are terminated, corporate leaders should be trained in proper policies and procedures in accordance with applicable state and federal laws prior to letting an employee go.  Tom Owen, Director of Security at U.S. Security Care, Inc., provides the following 10 mistakes to avoid when terminating an employee:

1.      Never terminate the employee in a public place, such as a restaurant, or in front of peers or subordinates.

2.      Only employees educated and trained in how to conduct employee terminations legally and safely should be permitted to terminate staff. 

3.      Never terminate an employee alone. At least two people should be present at an employee termination.  Usually, this includes the employee’s immediate supervisor and a member of human resources or upper management.  However, if the individual is believed to be potentially volatile, a security professional trained and experienced in hostile terminations is recommended as the second person.  The second person typically serves as the neutralizing presence and rarely, if at all, actually participates in the termination meeting.

4.      Do not terminate an employee on a Friday or before a holiday. An employee’s anger will be more likely to build during a time when he or she has little or no opportunity to talk to co-workers about the situation, obtain more information regarding the termination or begin a job search. Receiving bad news when most other people relax and celebrate is likely to make the employee feel more hostile and isolated.

5.      Do not terminate staff for alleged economic reasons immediately before or after announcing that senior management or other employees are receiving bonuses or other perks.

6.      Do not pretend to be the terminated employee’s best friend or say anything he or she might misconstrue  as a factor that could cancel the termination. Remember that you are conveying a message based on long-standing behavior and conduct. If the employee asks who will complete a project he or she has been working on, respond that the firm will handle it from this point on.

7.      Do not escort the employee from the premises in front of other staff. In most cases, allow the nonviolent employee to clean out his or her office without being monitored. If you suspect potential theft or sabotage, then safeguard the firm’s property subtly. Lock the computer system; overtly watch as the employee cleans out his office. Try to have a non-threatening co-worker assist the employee rather than a member of human resources or the security staff, but security staff should remain in close proximity.

8.     Do not follow the employee to his or her home to reclaim firm property without first asking the employee to return it. Advise the employee that he or she will be responsible for the value of non-returned items.

9.      In any instance, regardless of how agitated the employee may become during the termination proceedings, remain calm and in control. If necessary, stop the termination proceedings, advise the employee they will receive, in writing, additional options and information on their rights, and then escort them from the premises.

You have an obligation to protect the safety of other employees, as well as yourself.  In this instance, it is advisable to notify law enforcement and to retain the services of a reputable and professional security or investigative firm to provide surveillance of the individual for at least 48 to 72 hours.

10.  If terminations are not performance-related, but rather due to financial setbacks, give staff as much notice as possible. This will reduce the element of surprise and enable staff to prepare for a job search. In doing so, the potential for hostility will be lessened considerably.

Once all terminated staff has left the premises, hold meetings for remaining staff to answer any questions they may have to reduce their concern and anxiety.


WHEN SHOULD A COMPANY — USE UNARMED VERSUS ARMED AGENTS

Many companies and venues employ onsite security to act as a deterrent.  The question is when is it appropriate to hire armed versus unarmed agents.  Christine Tumolo, Operations Manager at U.S. Security Care, Inc., provides advice to companies that are wrestling with this question.

What is your criterion for recommending whether a client should have armed or unarmed agents?

Tumolo:  “The criteria for determining whether a client should have armed or unarmed agents depend largely on the level of threat the client is dealing with. This is known as a threat assessment.  A threat assessment is a determination of all known and potential threats.  The threats are evaluated and ranked based on the probability of occurrence and the associated vulnerability of the client to the threat.  This is done by speaking with the client to find out their needs and wants as well as receive detailed information about the event or situation.  This information provides us with the insight necessary to determine whether to provide armed versus unarmed security agents.

“In some cases, just knowing the situation such as mass terminations or hostile takeovers will help us understand what type of protection is required.  Some companies or religious groups may bring a guest speaker into a meeting or event.  Armed agents may be used if that speaker is known as a controversial speaker or speaks on contentious topics.  If there is no clear threat to the client, unarmed agents may suffice.

When are unarmed agents typically used?

Tumolo: “Unarmed agents are used in situations such as site security and event security.  In those capacities they are hired to observe and report and/or work in conjunction with police.  Each client and their needs are very different and should be looked at individually to make that determination.”

What is the main difference in training between an armed and unarmed agent?

Tumolo:  “The main difference in our armed agents verses the unarmed agents is the training. All armed agents employed by U.S. Security Care must have a current license to carry a weapon for work purposes issued in that state in order to work armed. U.S. Security Care provides Law Enforcement firearm training to all of its armed agents.  We are an approved affiliate agency and employ NRA Law Enforcement instructors as well as Range Safety Officers.  In addition to our armed agents receiving the same weapons training as some Law Enforcement officers, U.S. Security Care has a mandatory requirement that our agents train and qualify four times a year.

Is that the same or more than public and other private agencies?

Tumolo: “Most public agencies qualify twice a year and most private agencies qualify just once a year. Some private companies never train beyond just passing a qualification course. Our agents also receive classroom instruction on use of force and scenario exercises. U.S. Security Care goes above and beyond any accepted standard to provide the best training and continued assessment of its agents.” 

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