Work Place drug testing is a debatable issue, since it is a constant battle between the privacy of the workers and the standards set by the employers. Employers feel that it is a necessary step towards increased productivity, where as the workers feel it is simply an invasion of their privacy. But before we start up on this argument, let me first go over the different types of drug testing programs and their reliabilities.
Drug types of drug tests
Drug tests are of various kinds, namely the urine drug test, blood drug test and the hair follicle drug test. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to reliability of the results obtained.
Urine Drug Test:
In this test a sample of the subject’s urine is taken and tests are run in a lab to identify the substances. Most people suggest that urinalysis is the best choice as urine will contain the broken down products of most drugs. Marijuana for instance can be tested through urinalysis for a few weeks as it is not that soluble, hence it sticks to the fat tissues. However, the key disadvantage is that with time most of the drugs will be washed off the body, especially if the intake of fluids is high, hence making the results incorrect. (Drug Test Blog) Also, the issue of subjects switching their urine samples makes this test unreliable.
Blood Drug Test:
A blood drug test measures the amount of drug in the blood stream at the time the test is taken. However, again as with the case of urinalysis, blood drug tests may not be very reliable after a certain period of time passage from the point of intake. This is because the substances are broken down and washed away through sweat and urine. However, if a blood test is conducted within a short time period of the drug intake, let’s say perhaps within a day, then the results obtained will be reliable and correct. (How to pass a blood drug test?)
Hair follicle drug test:
A few strands of hair from the roots are required for this test. These strands are then sent in a lab for testing. Hair follicle drug tests are almost impossible to cheat. You cannot simply do detox or wash your hair with shampoo to get rid of the drug traces. This is one of the reasons why it is to widely depended upon these days. (Hair Follicle Drug Testing)
Types of Drug Testing Programs in a Work Place:
Drug testing programs are of various types. Some of them may include:
Pre-employment testing: All potential workers who may have been selected to hold a position in the company are asked to take a drug test in order to work. This allows the employer to identify the drug abusers from the very start. They can also publish this move as their official policy to avoid arguments.
Random Testing: Employers may conduct a random drug test with or without notification from before. This will allow them to identify any and all drug abusers. (drugtesting-matrix)
Suspicious activity Testing: Sometimes if a worker’s behavior has not been appropriate and employees suspect drug use, then they may conduct a test to verify their suspicions. (drugtesting-matrix)
Voluntary Testing: This is when workers are given the option to take a drug test and they themselves choose to undergo it. (drugtesting-matrix)
Analysis of Ethical Issues in Work Place Testing:
So the debate remains regarding whether or not drug testing should be conducted in a work place or not. There are certain ethical and legal issues to be considered when adopting a drug testing strategy in your work place. While employers feel that in order to provide a safe environment for all, drug tests need to be conducted to ensure safety from those who are under substance abuse. They feel it is important to identify if drug abuse if the reason behind decreased productivity and if so, measures need to be taken. Also some employers feel that conducting drug tests and having a clean environment will provide them good publicity and hence help with sales. On the other hand the workers feel drug testing is a violation of their privacy; that their personal life and what they do outside the work place should be of no business to the employer. (work place drug testing WDT)
The first ethical issue to be taken into consideration is “discrimination”. If a drug test is being conducted, then it should be done on all levels of the employees. It will be unfair to unjustly suspect the trainees and just test them for drugs, while those on higher positions are being given the benefit of the doubt. Also, in pre-employment drug testing, those who are “clean” automatically obtain an undue advantage over those who use drugs. This is discriminatory as it could be the case that a person who takes drug is also a good performer and hence is more deserving of the job. (work place drug testing WDT)
Second issue is Privacy. Workers feel that their actions and lifestyle outside the work place should be of no interest to the employer as long as they fulfill their work obligations. If a person has adopted a lifestyle which includes the use of drugs, this does not automatically put him under the list of poor performers. Workers feel that such a screening test is simply and invasion of their personal space. Especially Random Drug testing is considered to be a greater invasion of privacy as compared to others. A written consent should be taken from the workers before any screening is conducted, as stated by ILO Guiding Principles on Drug and Alcohol Testing, 1996. (work place drug testing WDT)
Confidentiality of results is another ethical issue that need be considered. If a company identifies a worker as having a drug abuse problem, they should not rant him out in the market, closing all job opportunities for the worker. All results must be kept confidential. The results of these tests must only be in the reach of the head employee and no other position holders. (work place drug testing WDT)
In the end, it is safe to say that if a workers performance is being influenced by his outdoor activities, then only should a drug screening be conducted, that too with an informed consent. Also no discrimination should be done when selecting who to test in a pre-employment or random drug test. Also a clear difference should be drawn between drug use and abuse before labeling the worker. And lastly, results must be kept in complete confidentiality. If such measures are taken, then I believe drug screening should be conducted to provide a safe working environment with high productivity.
Drug Test Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved may 2009, from http://www.passdt.com/
Drugtesting-matrix. (n.d.). Retrieved from uncleweed.net: http://uncleweed.net/words/essays/drugtesting-matrix.pdf
Hair Follicle Drug Testing. (n.d.). Retrieved from testcountry.org: http://www.testcountry.org/hair-follicle-drug-testing.htm
How to pass a blood drug test? (n.d.). Retrieved from passblooddrugtest.net: http://www.passblooddrugtest.net/
Work place drug testing WDT. (n.d.). Retrieved from ilc.org: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/safework/drug/wdt.pdf