The Ethics of Drug Testing in the Workplace
The prominence of drug testing in the workplace is expanding throughout the country as more and more companies employ drug tests to take a this critical step to ensure the safety and sanctity of the workplace. Optimally, keeping the workplace clear of drug users would ensure greater safety for the employees as a whole and increase the overall productivity of the company, and cheap, easy and accessible drug tests would make that happen. In spite of all this optimism, it is to be noted that drug testing in the workplace was never accepted by most communities as such in the beginning.
It is true that drug use by the employees would lead to on-the-job accidents, absenteeism and employee theft and that recurrent drug testing in the workplace could potentially discourage the use of drugs altogether. The major gripe of the employees was that it was not just the regular drug users and addicts that were being targeted. Drug testing proved a threat to the employment of people who used recreational drugs occasionally. There were fears of knee jerk dismissals of employees that were highly productive and efficient for the simple reason that they indulged themselves in a rave so long back that they could not even remember. Drug testing was promoted as to being focused on counseling and rehabilitating the employees that were detected, but people perceived it as a threat to their employment prospects.
Drug testing in the workplace was also being widely characterized as a blatant violation of the privacy of an individual. Today, these points of protests are dying a slow death as more and more people realize the importance of weeding out drug abusers from the workplace. Drug testing in the workplace in some form is approved in most states of the US, but the practice is not properly regulated in most cases. The people who are subjected to drug testing in the workplace do not necessarily give their consent, nor is it considered essential. The fact that a so called official could walk in and order you to urinate in a vial without a specified reason compounds the argument that this whole practice is a violation of personal privacy.
There is also an argument that drug testing in the workplace cannot single handedly ensure sobriety on the job. The crux of the argument of this lobby is that current drug tests that are employed are insufficiently accurate and cannot identify reliably all the possible substances that may be abused in all cases. Although it is true that the availability of some testing is better than none at all, it is also deplorable that these tests would club together both a regular drug abuser and a clean person who simply experimented with a drug unfortunately too close to the random drug test.
Although drug testing the employees was considered impractical just a few months ago due to its high costs, a new wave of practical and cheap drug tests flooding the market has caused a phenomenon of sorts. It is not just current employees who are subjected to drug testing in the workplace, prospective employees and job applicants are also put through a drug test before they start off on the job. The campaign towards widespread drug testing got its first major boost when President Reagan signed an Executive order to promote the concept of a workplace that was free of drugs. For the first time, this order not only made it impossible to use drugs at the workplace but also effectively outlawed use of drugs off duty. Although this executive order only encompassed Federal employees and contractors, this paved the way towards a universal acceptance of drug testing in the workplace.
Today the hundreds of laws that exist that govern the drug testing in the workplace, most only aid in furthering the confusion on what is acceptable and what is not. To add to the woes, most of these laws do not help through the way they are stated to convince the employees who are on the receiving end of these laws. Still, the practice continually evolves in its execution to encompass more and more employees bringing the dream of a drug free workplace true – one employee at a time.