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Workplace Drug Testing: A Necessity or An Unfair Practice

Random drug testing occurs at workplaces. Whether it should be implemented is a topic that evokes strong reactions. Americans are people who champion the causes of freedom, and, individuality. Privacy and personal space is both respected and guarded fiercely. Under such circumstances, employees often feel violated when such drug tests are carried out. It can be a cause of much emotional distress too.

However, there is a section that holds an equally strong but diverse opinion. They say that every employer has a right as well as responsibility to run a safe and productive workplace. Besides, USA needs to get stricter in combating the massive drug problem it is facing.

The opinion is clearly divided. Let us look at some of the arguments for and against this controversial practice and if a middle path can be reached.

Urine Sample Tests are Intrusive and Humiliating

Urination remains one of the most personal aspects of an individual. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit states that “there are few activities in our society more personal or private than the passing of urine.” On the other hand, the ‘right to be left alone’ ranks among the foremost rights of a citizen. Taking into account both of these, collecting urine sample in an official environment without any prior suspicion or reason is both violating an individual rights and humiliating him. Many workplaces also ask the employee to urinate in a fixed basin or bowl in the presence of an observer to prevent any manipulation. This is outright humiliating and degrading to the individual.

Universal Testing Is Not Always Reliable

Many question the reliability of universal testing adopted by many employers. There is an argument that individual bodies react differently to drugs. It is possible that an employee has consumed Marijuana on Friday and this does not affect the worker’s’ productivity at all on Mondays. But it reflects in the urine or blood. On the other hand, a worker may have snorted cocaine in the morning, but the test detect it. This happens as the cocaine has not yet been metabolized and so will not reflect in the person’s urine. Besides there is the relevant argument that even a positive drug response does not reinforce the fact that the person is intoxicated or impaired at the present moment.

Many times, drug screen tests also confuse similar chemical compounds. Codeine, and, Vicks Formula 44-M have yielded positive results for Heroin, and Advil for Marijuana. Certain herbal teas and poppy seeds also yield positive results for some drugs. Thus the unreliability also stems from the nature of these tests to confuse certain substances.

Contradicting the above are equally strong reasons for universal testing at the workplace.

Drug Use Costs the Industry Millions of Dollars each Year

It is not without reason that many believe that universal testing is the best way to combat workplace drug usage and impairment. America is losing millions of dollars every year because of employees who have made drug consumption a regular activity. Work is adversely affected as drugs impair your mental and physical functioning. At the same time, it sets a bad example.

When employees are not contributing to the organization positively, the employer does have the right to discipline and even dismiss them. Universal testing, though intrusive is a surefire way to eliminate the trouble makers and addicts, and deter them from consuming drugs and coming to work. Productivity loss due to drug use can thus be controlled.

If You are not Using Drugs, Testing Should Not be a Problem

Those advocating universal drug test at the workplace also insist that if an employee is innocent, he should not have a problem undergoing the test. This argument also explains the phenomena where employers are not just conducting drug and alcohol tests as part of the hiring process, but also on existing employees.

Organizations believe that random drug screening tests are a necessity. Urine testing remains most popular owing to ease of administration, cost effectiveness, and relevance of accuracy. Such testing has witnessed a year-by-year increase.

In What other Ways Can Employers Ensure a Drug-Free and Productive Workplace Environment?

Everyone agrees to the serious nature of workplace drug use and abuse. Yet universal testing remains in muddy waters. However there are other ways to tackle drug abuse at work. Some recommend hair testing as a less intrusive and better option. But the problem still remains that, it can still reveal a lot about the personal medical condition of a person, like the urine test. When these medical conditions are revealed, employers can use them to deny employment to such people as well as dismiss them from the organization.

Many employers are also suggesting home drug tests to the employees and asking them to self discipline and address the issue before the organization authorities swoop in and take serious action. Through this the employee is warned of consequences and the rights to privacy are not violated either.

Another effective but non-invasive option could be computer-assisted tests that measure hand-eye coordination and reaction time to determine fatigue, lack of concentration, and productivity.

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