Drug abuse has been on the increase in the world today, with its effects causing greater challenges at the workplace. Drugs can cause ill health, increase accidents at work and substantially reduce an employee’s output. Therefore, employers have been keen to keep drug misuse off the workplace. With most employers implementing drug testing at their workplace, it can be difficult for drug users to get employment in the future. Drug testing at the workplace has proven to reduce work accidents, and improve workers performance.
It has also proven to be a cheaper strategy in identifying those workers who can need assistance, with the five common drug tests being: blood, hair, saliva, urine and sweat (David R. Russell 258). Employers can be advised to have a policy on drug testing, due to safety risks from drug misuse. This policy should be between the employer and employees. The drug policy clearly state out the disciplinary action for those found misusing drugs at the workplace, how the drug tests can be conducted, the objective of the policy and how the drug abusers can be assisted (Gregory Rice 486).
Regardless of an employer’s motive for testing, they need employee consent so as not to violate the employee’s right to be safe from seizures and unreasonable searches. Before a company or organization decides to carry out a drug test, it should consider several factors, like government regulations, insurance requirements and contract agreements. Some contracts can demand a drug-free workplace for employers, and, therefore, the need for a drug test. The employer should restrict the testing to the employees that need it under justified reasons (Gregory Rice 485).
In 1979, drug usage was at its peak in America but has been steadily falling from then. The awareness of health concerns and drug prevention programs have contributed significantly to reduced drug use. This means there can be other better constitutional ways of addressing drug abuse at the workplace, including treatment and education of employees (Karch 111). Indiscriminate drug testing can be unfair to employees. It can be unnecessary to force productive workers, who have satisfactory job erformance to a drug test just to prove their innocence, through a procedure that violates their privacy. The search should respect the privacy, for example, there should be a witness, and it should be performed by members of the same sex (Hanson 12). An employer has the right to fire an employee who refuses to acknowledge a drug test policy after a warning. The policy should extend to all employees in various job categories. For example, those who have risky jobs like operating vehicles and machinery can be subjected to drug testing, but clerical staff can be exempted.
Some companies comply with drug testing because it can be a requirement by law. Most organizations notify their employees, that positive drug tests result to termination. Some have given the employees another chance after rehabilitation under agreed, supervisory conditions. Several organizations and companies have attempted to evaluate the relationship between drug abuse and employee job performance, and they have found little relationship (Parish 46) . Drug tests can be unreliable with commonly used drug tests yielding false results.
The drug screens can also mix up chemicals leading to unreliable drug tests. A positive drug test indicates that a drug was taken at a past time, it does not establish the difference between habitual and occasional use. Drug testing does not also detect all the users, since stronger drugs like cocaine do not last for a longer time in their user’s blood stream as compared to marijuana. This means that a frequent cocaine user can easily pass a drug test compared to a marijuana user (Karch 98).
Accurate tests tend to be time consuming and can be expensive for most organizations, and, therefore, used less frequently. Hanson (1993) recognizes that a typical testing policy should be flexible for the employer. An organization should be able to perform a random and ‘for cause’ testing for all employees. These should be clearly spelt out in the policies to enable all employees understand the circumstances under which they can be called for a test. The terms under the policy should be clearly understandable and be properly defined.
Other parties who can be involved in settling disputes resulting from a drug test like the government courts, insurance companies and supervisors should also understand the policy. Employers can also decide to adopt a pre-employment drug testing for their job applicants. This can be done at the selection process, although this tends to be expensive for most companies, which restrict the program to the final candidates for a job position. The companies should be the ones to pay for the drug tests, but depending on the law, applicants can be required to pay for a pre-employment drug test.
What the policy prohibits should be exceptionally clear, and it is extremely beneficial for a company to identify and engage a convenient drug-testing lab that can be willing to cooperate with the employer (Davidson). The agreement between the company and the lab should be clear, in order, to have an effective drug testing, the lab should not be used unless it is willing to provide test results with no bias, to show the specific tests performed and to indicate the substances found with enough details for a positive drug test.
The lab should also furnish the confidentiality of the information resulting from its tests; this can be related to the blood sample, urine or hair (David Walsh 200). Using the GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) method, the employer should have the lab confirm initial positive result from a drug test. This is because initial tests or screens vary and this can be the best way of protecting the organization from unemployment claims. Confidentiality is extremely vital for test results, and careless releasing of employees test results can lead to legal action on invasion of privacy grounds.
Such material records can be stored in a company’s confidential medical file, and should only be accessed by the company’s medical experts and supervisors. In some instances, the employers can release the results to government agencies, courts, and arbitrators handling drug test claims. Serious consequences can arise from a drug test including, unemployment, emotional distress, loss of privacy, and damage to reputation (Karch 120). Studies in the US indicate that substance abusers tend to be less productive, can be late for work, can hurt others or themselves at work and can most likely miss work.
Every airline, hospital, construction company, office, train operator and factory, can be exposed to public health risks. Several people have died under an intoxicated surgeon’s knife (Lumas 185) . If a driver is too drunk, he should not drive a train or operate a crane. Despite several employers resorting to drug testing, most of them have failed to educate themselves concerning human rights and drug testing at the workplace, hence creating an untrustworthy environment between them and the employees.
In some cases, like in Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom only applies to the federal government leaving the private sector unattended. This has left the employees in the private sector at the mercy of their employers (Davidson). Most employees tend to feel that drug testing can be an employer’s way of discriminating those of them with drug disability. Therefore, in order for an employer to institute a drug testing policy that is compliant with the human rights legislation, the employer should be able to certify that the drug test can be related to the employee’s job performance, and not substance abuse.
The employees always see the lab procedure as invasion of their privacy, since urinalysis not only reveals the illegal drugs present, but also shows other medical and biological conditions. Therefore, drug test can be seen as a form of punishment for the employees (Lumas 216). Mandatory drug screenings help in the creation of a safer working environment since it keeps employees free from drug and in a sober state of mind. Drug use alters judgment and can create several hazards, which can even be fatal.
Drug use also tends to create unfaithfulness between the employer and staff. Their secretive abuse can initiate a devious behavior, which interferes with the work environment where honesty and integrity should form a foundation (David Walsh 205) . Employers have already established several laws and regulations against using drugs in the workplace; therefore, an employee found using drugs violates the work ethics of an organization and can imply that an organization has legalized drug use. If an accident occurs, the company can be sued and can lose a lot of money.
Drug related lawsuits can only be avoided by ensuring that employees do not use drugs at the workplace. Drug testing in the workplace, holds staff to a higher standard, although some employees still continue with their ‘habits’ despite company efforts (David R. Russell 248). Several state and federal courts have outlined that public workplace testing programs can be unconstitutional without proper justification. Courts have abolished several testing programs which can be deemed unconstitutional, by employee unions. State law concerning workplace drug testing is still evolving.
In public employment, several compulsory testing programs have been established by civil rights community and labor unions. Parish (1989) claims that a number of states have established laws forbidding random drug testing in both the public and private sectors. However, in many states, the private sector employees can still be exposed to indiscriminate and inaccurate drug testing. Therefore, additional state laws regarding workplace drug testing, in the private sector should be established to ensure fair treatment and employees rights to privacy.
Any company that ensures it has a clearly written, and well defined policy to employees, can ensure that drug tests can be conducted according to the policy. It will enable the lab to provide appropriate documentation, and the company will be at a better position against any law suits. The primary aim of any drug test should not be to sack an employee, but rather offer help through treatment by discouraging abuse. It takes more than imprisoning a person to make them change their old habits. Therefore, it cannot be a smart idea to rely on the unreliable drug testing programs.
There can be other better and effective ways to address drug abuse at the workplace. The other methods can have a better effect in the workplace, and can avoid the privacy issues that drug tests raise. One effective alternative method, in my opinion, can be training supervisors at work to confront, and assist affected employees through assistance programs. This technique can lead to a better employee acceptance of the treatment method and a better overall performance. Otherwise, drug tests at the workplace will always pose the problem of what levels can be tolerated for illegal drugs? Which employee should be tested? And how frequently and what action should be imposed on employees?
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