More and more employers are now implementing drug testing in the workplace. Private business and government agencies both are beginning to recognise how beneficial workplace drug testing can be. It is, however, not without issues. Controversies about drug testing abound, particularly when it’s random in nature or requires urine samples. Workers protest that drug tests of this kind is an invasion of their privacy, and therein lies much of the issues with drug testing in the workplace.
A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay
Looking at it from the point of view of employers, routine or random workplace drug testing is only fair, as they are entitled to a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Since drug and alcohol use seriously threatens a worker’s capacity to render a fair day’s work, employers have the right to make an inquiry into it and act accordingly. After all, drugs and alcohol can impair a worker in a significant way, and an impaired worker could mean more than just reduced or lost productivity. It could also mean injury or even death, particularly when an impaired worker holds a safety-sensitive position in the workplace. Add to that the fact that drug and alcohol abusing workers are more prone to absenteeism, higher job turnover rates, and more medical benefits claims than those who don’t use drugs, and you can clearly see that doing something about it — like putting drug and alcohol testing policies in place– is in the best interest of the employer.
Intruding on the privacy of employees
Critics of workplace drug-testing, on the other hand, focus their protestations on such a program’s propensity for intruding on the privacy of employees. This very basic right is protected by laws that may vary from state to state, and that could prove very tricky for employers. For drug testing opponents, employers cannot invade one’s privacy unless they have serious cause and that it is done in a reasonable manner. That’s why they take exception to routine and random drug testing, because, to them, there is no reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse when such tests are conducted. They claim that random drug testing only aims to humiliate employees and intrude on their right to privacy.
Workplace drug testing opponents also claim that drug testing is not really effective at determining accurately if an employee is impaired and, therefore, cannot perform his or her job well. The only thing it does is detect traces of a drug in a person’s system. Determining whether or not they are impairing a person’s capability to work efficiently is beyond a drug test’s capabilities. Some people who test positive have actually last taken a drug a few days or eve weeks before the test, and traces remain in his or her system.
Drug tests are also notoriously unreliable, claim those opposed to them. They say there are 1,000 inaccurate results for every 100,000 samples taken, even if the tests were conducted under the most ideal of conditions.
Until employers and workers successfully balance safety and productivity requirements and the latter’s right to privacy, it seems like drug testing in the workplace will remain a contentious issue. Are you for or against drug testing in the workplace?