Drug Testing In Employment
Concerns have been raised in regards to requiring employees to be given drug tests in the workplace. The question of concern is using such a program, would it be an ethically correct and socially desirable action for the employer, or would it infringe on the privacy rights of the employee. The first argument at hand is giving employees drug tests actually related to the essential job functions and, second, that it can harm the employer, other employees, and the general public.
There are groups of people that will argue that the employee's right to privacy is violated whenever personal information is requested, collected, or used by an employer in any way or purpose that is not related to or in violation of the relationship that exists between employees and the employer. In order for an employer to subject its employees to drug testing, they must prove that there is a relevant need for the testing. Employers know that by subjecting their employees to drug tests, without sound reasoning, will be subject to federal and state laws.
The knowledge of drug use is job-relevant information. A person who uses drugs can be a huge liability to themselves, the employer, co-workers, and the public. Drug users tend to have lower productivity compared to non-drug users. Drug users also have higher work injuries compared to non-drug users. What does this mean? High costs. Costs can be measured in the expense of absenteeism, injuries, health insurance claims, loss of productivity, employee morale, theft and fatalities. However, these reasons are not the only reasons businesses should conduct drug tests. Most of us agree that the drug problem in the United States is a major problem that will most likely never be solved in our lifetime, if ever. It is the firm's responsibility, however, to provide a work environment as safe as possible for employees and for the greater good of the general public.
John Stewart Mill states that, "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." The principle of utility should be seen as a means for generating secondary moral principles. For example, "don't steal," promotes happiness because more people would generally be happier, this is the key concept of Mill's utilitarianism theory. Promoting drug testing in the workplace would bring general happiness to society. Having peace of mind that the doctor operating on them will perform his job duties correctly, the bus driver driving kids safely to and from school, the CEO who has a secretary take important phone calls and the businessperson who frequently flies is a responsible person, and is free of drugs. Businesses can avoid the argument of the whether or not drug testing is job related by stating in the contract that drug tests will be given, for what reasons and why.
There is no such thing as "leave your home life home and your work at work." Every person who is employed brings a part of their home life to work. The argument of "what I do when I am not at work is none of your business" can only go so far. In most cases, businesses do not care what one does in the privacy at their home. It only becomes an issue when it starts to affect job performance, the health and safety of the employee, co-workers, and the general public. Drug users cannot simply wiggle their noses and wish the drugs they took leave their body instantly; therefore, personal home life is brought on to the workplace.
Mills argues that it is okay to allow interference with a person's rights in order to prevent harm. For example, in the construction industry, there are major on-the-job drug issues. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health released in 2005 a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C. that there were about 19 million past-month illicit drug users. The chart below is the percentages in the construction industry of illicit drug users.
Substance abuse among different occupations in the construction industry.
These percentages are frightening because these people are big liabilities to contractors and the general public. An error in construction work can cause major damages, serious injuries, and possible fatalities.
There is also the argument that not every person should be tested. Reason being, there are jobs that do not pose a clear and present danger for causing harm if performed under the influence of drugs. Refering to the construction industry , assume that a construction "runner" (a person who runs materials to another person to do a task) is under the influence of drugs. While climbing up a ladder to hand a co-worker a hammer, they miss a step because they have drugs in their system, reaches for help, falls, pulling
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Drug Testing In The Workplace Drug testing in the workplace is one of the hottest issues at the moment. The majority of the public opposes this practice at the moment, and there are good reasons for this. The most important cause for the opposition to drug testing at work place is the invasion of privacy associated with it. Many people consider it to be quite humiliating and think that this practice should be outlawed.
However, despite all the opposition, drug testing in the work place is becoming more and more popular. Large companies spend millions of dollars a year on drug testing. Even the little companies that employ a relatively small number of people take up this practice. In this paper we are going to discuss the evolution of federal drug testing laws and also look at how certain states deal with this matter. We are also going to discuss the social issues that drug testing at work may raise, such as discrimination against the individuals who practice the recreational drug use and those who are affected with various diseases and disorders that require drug treatment. The usage of various drug substances has been around since the beginning of times.
In the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries drug use was a common thing and there were no laws that prohibited it. However, as the society evolved and people began to realize the damaging effects of drug abuse, governments started enforcing a number of laws that were aimed at limiting or completely abolishing the use of substances. The effort addressed not only the issues of recreational drug use, but also the effects of drug use on the individuals performance at work. This matter is crucially important if the persons occupying a sensitive job and his inability to perform adequately at work may result in health or material damages to other employees or the employer. Drug testing at work place came to the attention of the American legislative system in 1986.
On September 15, president Reagan signed the Executive Order 12564, which dealt with the issue. In 1988 it transformed into the Drug Free Workplace Act, which prohibited the use of substances at any time to all federal employees (Niznik) and legalized subjection of the employees to any kind of drug testing. The private companies quickly followed the trend set by the government and started testing their employees for various drugs. In 1989, the Supreme Court concluded that a public employer taking a blood, urine or breath specimen for the purpose of alcohol and other drug testing constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment, because it implicates significant privacy concerns (McKinney). The court also held that in order to determine whether such test is really needed, the balancing between the concern about the privacy intrusion and the employers interests is required. In this issue, the court favors the employers interests, for it is considered to be of more importance than the inconvenience caused to the individual.
Today, the federal laws that concern the issue of drug testing at work place can be summarized by the ADA legislations. An employer may conduct various tests to detect drug abuse among his employees. An employer may require the applicants to take drug tests prior to the official employment, whether or not it is related to the job itself (Med Review). The employer has the right to deny employment to individuals engaged in drug use. The individual who is currently engaged in drug use does not fall under the ADA. However, even though the above statements seem to be protecting only the employers interests and completely ignoring those of the employee, it is not true.
ADA also protects certain groups of people from discrimination on the part of the employer. For example, persons, who are no longer using drugs illegally and are enrolled in some rehabilitation program are covered by ADA. This also includes alcoholics and people, who require medical drug treatment due to some disorder (Med Review). Now that we are aware of the federal opinion on the issue, lets discuss the position that various states hold toward the matter. Most of them accepted the federal Drug Free Workplace Act in 1989 and then added some specific corrections to the legislation.
Due to the limitations of this paper, we wont cover all of the states and will limit our attention to the selected few. Alabama state policy on the issue is that the employee may be tested for drug usage, provided the employee was informed in writing on the employers drug testing policy before he assumed the job. If the test conducted according to the U. S. Department of Transportation's testing standards is positive, the employer has the right to deny the employee any compensation benefits. The refusal to take the test leads to the presumption of guilt and results in the corresponding punishment.
Alabama state has passed on this law in 1997. In May, 1999 The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations has issued the clarification code that had some additions to this law ("State and Territory Laws, Alabama State"). Alaska Voluntary Drug Testing Act is a bit different from its Alabama analogue. There are no restrictions placed on the type of testing that can be conducted by the employer.
However, the employer must develop a certain set of drug testing policies that have to comply with the collection, testing and confidentiality routines specified by the Act. Testing has to be performed by the laboratories approved by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Act was first accepted in 1989 and then supplemented with slight changes in 1997 ("State and Territory Laws, Alaska State"). California drug testing policy has also undergone a number of corrections since its acceptance in 1989, and it was quite liberal at some periods of time.
In 1993, the San Francisco ordinance prohibited drug testing under most circumstances, such as random, periodic and post-accident tests. Pre-employment and reasonable-suspicion testing were permitted only if certain conditions were met. In 1999 the state also prohibited the on-site testing, requiring for all tests to be done in the Department of Health laboratories. State government also encourages employers to participate in drug rehabilitation programs ("State and Territory Laws, California State"). The Florida Drug-Free Working Place Act is very similar to the original federal legislation. It does not require drug testing of the employees, but it does not prohibit it either, as long as the testing is done in accordance with the specified regulations.
Another regulation that concerns the drug testing at work, the Contracts State law, enforces the Act by providing the preference in granting contracts to companies that have a Drug-Free Workplace policy. The position of Florida government towards the issue can be described as mild encouragement of drug testing at the work place ("State and Territory Laws, Florida State"). The Oklahoma state drug testing policy is very supportive of the employees. Even though the employer is allowed to conduct most types of drug testing, prior to that he has to provide the employee assistance program.
He also needs to familiarize his employees with his drug testing policy prior to the acceptance to the job. These changes to the original Drug-Free Working Place Act were accepted in 1999 ("State and Territory Laws, Oklahoma State"). Idaho state accepted the Private Employer Alcohol and Drug-Free Workplace Act in 1999, which was an addition to the already existing Drug-Free Workplace Act. It states that the employer may conduct various drug tests that have to comply with the specific regulations.
The testing may be done on-site, but if the result is positive, an additional laboratory test will be required. The employee who loses his job as a result of drug abuse is eligible for the unemployment compensation benefits. Idaho laws concerning drug usage are quite strict compared to other states ("State and Territory Laws, Idaho State"). Minnesota drug testing laws are quite liberal. They were accepted in 1993 and further supplemented in 1999 and they include a very large number of restrictions on drug testing. The employer may only conduct the test if certain concerns arise and he may not discharge the employee on the basis of the first-time positive test, without providing any chance for rehabilitation ("State and Territory Laws, Alabama State").
The laws of other states are very close to the examples discussed above. As we can see, various states practice very different policies and this fact has to be considered when applying for the job in a given state. The argument about the morals and the social issues of compulsory drug testing is a very complicated matter. As in every argument, there are two sides to this story. On one side there is an employer. The company that provides the employee with the job, the company that pays money to this individual, the company that expects the job to be done according to the set requirements.
Drug abuse is known to decrease the productiveness of workers, and this means that the employer will suffer the financial loss as the result of his employees addiction. Another matter, which is even more important than the material losses, is the safety issue. Some jobs, such as the firefighter, require the employee to take responsibility for other peoples life. If he is under the influence, it may impair his judgment of the situation and cause damage to health of the individuals involved. So if we look at the argument from this point of view, the employer has every right to know whether his employees are using substances.
On the other hand, there is the employee, who is subjected to the unpleasant and sometimes even humiliating procedures. Most states require the representative of the testing party to be present while the sample is collected. Sometimes this may mean urinating with someone closely watching all your actions, which is not a pleasurable thing and may cause a certain amount of psychological distress. Another issue that was raised by this argument is discrimination against people with HIV, who are identified by these tests. We can see that there can be no common opinion on the matter of drug testing in the workplace. Certainly, some states need to reconsider their current policies, in order to ensure that both the employee and the employer are treated fairly and none of them are discriminated against.
Bibliography "State and Territory Laws, Alabama State." 2004. U. S. Department of Labor. 14 December 2004. < web >. "State and Territory Laws, Alaska State." 2004. U. S.
Department of Labor. 14 December 2004. < web >. "State and Territory Laws, California State." 2004. U. S. Department of Labor. 14 December 2004. < web >. "State and Territory Laws, Florida State." 2004. U. S.
Department of Labor. 14 December 2004. < web >. "State and Territory Laws, Idaho State." 2004. U. S. Labor Department. 14 December 2004. < web >. "State and Territory Laws, Oklahoma State." 2004. U. S.
Department of Labor. 14 December 2004. < web >. McKinney, Alice. "Drug-Free Way to Be in Alabama." 2000. 14 December 2004. < web >. Med Review, Inc. "Ada Regulations on Drug Testing ." 2004. 14 December 2004. < web >. Niznik, Steven. "Drug Testing in the Workplace." 2001. Online Encyclopedia. 14 December 2004. < web >.
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