Drug Testing in the Workplace

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Drug Testing in the Workplace – Violates Privacy and is bad for Business Drug testing employees has gained much support, as well as much resistance, in recent years. Those in favor of testing claim that employee drug testing reduces employee absences, theft, and accidents in the workplace and as such improves worker productivity and safety. In her essay, “A Case against Workplace Drug Testing,” Debra R. Comer makes an argument against workplace drug testing by identifying six individual “problems with drug testing” (Comer 259). Through an examination of statistical research into the effectiveness of drug testing in the workplace she “identifies the misconceptions about drug use and testing, underscores the technological limitations of testing, and reviews research on individuals’ negative response to workplace testing” (Comer 259). Of the six problems Comer identifies to support her argument against workplace drug testing I believe three are the best arguments to support that workplace drug testing is a violation of employee privacy and is ultimately bad for business. The first of Comer’s arguments that I find compelling is that the technology behind the testing is flawed and limited. Drug testing is expensive so employers typically use the less expensive immunoassay (Comer 261) test which can identify specific substances in a sample of urine or blood. The problem with this type of testing is that there are instances of false positives where employees who haven’t taken drugs actually test positive. Certain foods like poppy seeds, over-the-counter cold and pain relief medications and legally prescribed medications as well as some metabolic diseases, diabetes for example, can cause employees to test positive for drugs. Technology is not 100% accurate even in the best of circumstances. The laboratory testing the employee’s blood or urine can make mistakes and may not meet the standards for laboratory certification set by the National Institute for Drug Abuse (Comer 261). In fact, “Brookler (1992) has reported that less than 7% of the nation’s drug testing labs meet these standards” (qtd. Comer 261). Individuals within any workplace can make errors but when those errors occur in a lab testing for drugs the accuracy of the results are extremely important to the employer and the employee. The result of a false positive for an otherwise good employee due to laboratory error can have devastating consequences in his unfair dismissal from the job. Technology is also limited in that there is no way to determine when a drug has actually been taken or how often it is being taken. An employee can be off work and out on a Friday evening and decide to use a drug. On Monday he reports to work sober and no longer under the effects of the drug but during a random drug test on Monday traces of the drug are found resulting in a positive drug test. The employee’s ability to do his job has not necessarily been compromised by the drug he took on Friday but testing positive results in his termination. The technology of the drug test does not differentiate between the employee who uses an occasional drug outside and away from work from the employee who has an actual long-standing issue with drugs and may be a liability to the company in terms of safety and productivity. I fully agree with Comer regarding the technological limitations of drug testing. An employee’s fate rests solely on the ability of technology to differentiate between legally prescribed medications, certain foods that metabolize strangely in the body, or metabolic diseases, and illegal drugs. Some employers have a one-strike you are out policy and will fire an employee based upon one positive test for drugs without providing the opportunity for the employee to be retested or provide medical information explaining the reason behind a false positive. In the case of the potential employee a positive drug test will most likely result in his...
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