Workplace Drug Testing, Case Study Example

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Case Study

Q1. What are the justifications for workplace drug testing?

A1. There are various legal, economical, and social reasons for workplace drug testing. First of all, workplace drug testing is required by certain laws and contract requirements and is compulsory for employment in most government agencies and departments such as law enforcement agencies and Department of Transportation. Similarly, some states have their own requirements and rules regarding workplace drug testing that employers are supposed to follow. Economical benefits include lower insurance costs, lower accident rates, improved productivity, and safer workplaces that attract high quality workers.

Social reasons include the organizations’ responsibility to ensure that their employees follow the laws of the land such as abstaining from illegal drugs and do not cause unnecessary hardship for their fellow workers. The second reason alone is a just ground because even though smoking is legal beyond a certain age, it has now been banned at numerous public places because it unwillingly imposes health and economic costs on fellow citizens. Employers also have a social responsibility in addition to legal responsibility to prove safe working environment to their workers. Drug use often results in undesirable behavior which could put others in harm way. In addition, by making employment difficult for drug users, organizations put economic pressures on the drug users to clean up their act and increase the overall welfare of the society.

Q2. How does drug testing affect the civil rights of employees?

A2. Employees’ civil rights include protection from unnecessary intrusion into their private affairs. Even though some drug testing methods have been proven to be more reliable and less intrusive than the others, all of them have some limitations. Even urine testing which has become the standard practice in most industries is often followed by a second confirmation to reach a more reliable conclusion. If employees believe the test results are inaccurate, they often have to be willing to reveal more private information in order to defend themselves. Polygraph test has been banned in most states due to its shortcomings because there was always a possibility of someone’s rights being violated due to the potential of error and the same shortcomings also exist in most drug-testing methods.

Alcohol is legal though law does prohibit certain activities under the influence of alcohol such as driving. But as long as one enjoys alcohol in the privacy of his home, he is not breaking any law. Drug testing for alcohol may infringe on the right to enjoy alcohol in one’s private property and the employers do not have any right to probe employees as to how they live their life outside work for as long as it doesn’t affect their performance. But standard drug policies treat all employees equally, even those who never let their private affairs affect their work.

Drug testing does make sense for jobs such as transportation where employees are responsible for the safety of numerous individuals but not all jobs have the same risk. Standardized drug policy sometimes doesn’t explain as to how the alcohol and drug free policy will benefit the work environment. Such a policy only unnecessarily violates employees’ privacy in the name of compliance and could be unconstitutional if the risk involved is outweighed by the employees’ right to privacy. In addition, drug-tests could also reveal other medical conditions that could become the basis of employment discrimination.

Q3. What classes of current or prospective employees, if any, should be tested?

A3. Current or prospective employees that demonstrate behavior normally associated with alcohol addiction or drug use such as frequent absences, erratic behavior, inconsistent job performance, and lack of motivation or attention to work should be tested as a precautionary measure. Similarly, jobs where drug or alcohol use could put other lives at risk or pose great economic costs to the employers should also adopt drug and alcohol testing as a mandatory requirement of recruitment and employment. Examples include transportation, work places that involve high use of machinery, and where there are high probabilities of accidents due to mistakes.

In addition, those with a history of addiction as well as those who have gone through rehabilitation or treatment programs should also be tested. Full recovery is not an easy thing as we often hear about people successfully completing treatment programs, only to become addicted again. Employment opportunities are limited for those with drugs and/or alcoholic addiction history, thus, drug testing seems a fair compromise between the employees and the employers. Employees get the opportunity to demonstrate they have mended their ways and employers get an assurance that employees are being truthful. Similarly, the shortcomings of different methods of drug testing have become common knowledge and internet has made it even easier to access information. The only way to ensure that employees are not taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of testing methods is to carry out unannounced random drug testing which will have a higher chance of catching drug users and alcoholics than scheduled testing.

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