Case Study: Drug Testing in the Workplace

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Drug testing is often mandatory when safety issues are involved. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation has regulations that require drug testing of more than eight million different employees, such as truck drivers (Thompson Reuters, 2011). It is not just safety in the workplace that is the concern, but a matter of public safety The state of Alaska has no mandatory drug-testing laws, but employers can choose to test and must follow strict guidelines if they do so Employers must test fairly, unobtrusively, and with the consent of the employee. If an employer is going to test employees, then all employees must be tested. The decision to test cannot be made based on an employee's appearance or demeanor. Tests must be done unobtrusively, in a way that protects the employee's privacy. If a urine test is to be administered, for example, the employee should be allowed privacy and the test administered by a laboratory, unless there is strong reason to believe that an employee might tamper with the sample to hide positive results. Since urine testing gives accurate results for up to five days preceding the test, many employers opt for testing hair samples, which can show drug use for up to three months prior. However, employees must voluntarily provide the hair sample. An employer cannot pick up stray hairs left in a chair during an interview, for example, and send them for testing (Thompson Reuters, 2011).

The Department of Labor states that education is an important part of a drug-free workplace. It provides on its website a program employers can use to conduct the training within their organizations. The program covers topics such as workplace impact, understanding addiction, signs and symptoms, family and coworker impact, assistance, and specific drugs of abuse. Employees receive a copy of the organization's drug-free policy and often sign a receipt that they have received it. It affords the employer protection in the event drug use is found. Employers have specific grounds for dismissal, if they choose, when policy is clearly articulated beforehand and employees agree.

If employers choose to implement an education program, then it must be for all employees. Employers cannot target specific groups based on education, background or appearance, although they can group employers based on job title when job performance and safety are issues, such as bus drivers or machine operators. This makes sense, as it provides protection for the individual as well as anyone around them who is affected by what they do..

Drug testing and education in the workplace are complicated issues. Employers' actions depend on the laws of the state in which they do business as well as the size and type of organization. Laws exist to protect the privacy of individuals, so employers must be careful in their administration of testing and education programs, being certain that everyone is treated equitably.

References

Drug-free workplace policy builder. Section 7: Drug testing. (2010). U.S. Department of Labor.

Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/elaws/asp/drugfree/drugs/screen92.asp

Drummer, O.H. (2006). Drug testing in oral fluid. Clinical Biochemist Reviews 27(30), pp. 147-

Privacy in America: Workplace drug testing. (1997). American Civil Liberties Union.

Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform_technology-and-liberty/privacy-america-workplace-drug-testing

Smith, S. (2004). What every employer should know about drug testing in the workplace.

Occupational Hazards 66(8), pp. 45-47.

Thompson Reuters. (2011). Drug testing during hiring. FindLaw. Retrieved from http://employment.findlaw.com/employment/employment-employee-hiring/employment-employee-privacy-drug-test.html

Workplace drug testing. (2010). U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/asp/programs/drugs/workingpartners/dfworkplace/dt.asp#q5 [END OF PREVIEW]

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