Legalized drug testing at workplace is a serious ethical and legal issue with opponents claiming it a direct infringement on the employee’s rights of privacy while the proponents vouching for its usefulness in curbing drug and substance abuse. This paper shall look in both sides of the debate of legal and moral propriety of workplace drug testing and types and reliability of commonly used drug testing methods. Ethical issues on workplace drug testing
Measures to implement drug-testing measures at workplace have run into trouble from the first day of their inception with workers labeling such methods as violation of their privacy and bear the stamp of discrimination. However, employers and government agencies defending the decision to implement workplace drug testing have cited important social and economic benefits as reasons to go ahead with workplace testing. The workplace drug testing involves testing the employees and applicants for substance abuse based on their urine, blood, hair and/or breath samples.
In the current approved format, employers can conduct following range of testing (Moorland, 1993) 1. Testing before employment 2. Probable cause testing 3. Suspicion testing 4. Periodic Testing 5. Random Testing 6. Testing after transfer, promotion, or long vacation 7. Voluntary Testing For obvious reasons the greatest cause of contention, of all these types, is on the random testing where employers can ask any employee, with or without a valid reason, to submit for drug testing.
In the attempt of creating a drug free workplace, the random drug testing pushes the matter to the limit of harassment and embarrassment for employees. The major ethical issues involved in workplace drug testing are 1. Safety: Employers maintain that its their responsibility to ensure a safe drug free environment at the workplace, contending that drug abuse or signs of drug abuse is dangerous for health security of other employees, while also adversely affecting the business security of the firm.
However, skeptics and opponents have question the definition and range of safety issue, questioning the corporation’s right in interfering in the personal lives of employees beyond their immediate business related aspects 2. Deterrence. Proponents of drug testing at workplace have effectively pointed out that such steps have led to decrease in drug abuse. 3. Issue of privacy. Critics of drug testing have strongly objected on the violation of bodily privacy in the case of random testing when employers can virtually force an employee to undergo the testing procedures.
4. Discrimination: It is a major argument of the critics that as drug testing can not differentiate between use and abuse, it might be easily used to fire unwanted employees. They point out that even if a person is given a single dose of a banned drug that he/she has not ever taken before, the results would come out as positive leading to punitive actions. Workplace drug testing is further opposed on the grounds that testing methods used in such procedures are generally incompetent in providing a correct estimate of the time and degree of previous drug abuse.
Major Drug Testing methods are 1. Urine analysis: It tests for drugs taken since previous two-three days. This test is easy to pass if drug taker abstains from drug use just for a few days and drinks lot of water in the period. The method is also criticized because its inconvenient, embarrassing and while sample collection, it requires monitoring which is further problematic for women. 2. Blood Testing: Blood testing is usually avoided because it contains dangers of spread of confections and communicable diseases. 3.
Hair sampling: This is by far the best method as it can test drug test for previous several months. The method does not cause any embarrassment and is very reliable. Conclusion While random and forced workplace drug testing clearly violates the basic principles of personal integrity and privacy, an institutionalized approach is what that can give fair results without irking employees. Corporations should opt for clinical, periodical drug testing of employees and act on advise of physicians on issues of retaining, admonishing or firing employees. Reference
Behrouz Shahandeh and Joannah Carbon, Ethical Issues in workplace drug testing in Europe. 2003. http://72. 14. 235. 104/search? q=cache:-0qcuIglOicJ:www. ilo. org/public/english/protection/safework/drug/wdt. pdf+issues+in+workplace+drug+testing&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=in Drug Testing. Workplace drug testing. http://www. workplacedrugtesting. com/drug_testing. htm Division of Workplace program. www. drugfreeworkplace. gov Morland J. (1993) “Types of drug testing programmes in the workplace”, Bulletin on Narcotics: Drug testing in the workplace (United Nations International Drug Control Programme)