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Drug Testing In The Workplace

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Drug Testing In Employment

Concerns have been raised in regards to requiring employees to be given drug tests in the workplace. The question of concern is using such a program, would it be an ethically correct and socially desirable action for the employer, or would it infringe on the privacy rights of the employee. The first argument at hand is giving employees drug tests actually related to the essential job functions and, second, that it can harm the employer, other employees, and the general public.

There are groups of people that will argue that the employee's right to privacy is violated whenever personal information is requested, collected, or used by an employer in any way or purpose that is not related to or in violation of the relationship that exists between employees and the employer. In order for an employer to subject its employees to drug testing, they must prove that there is a relevant need for the testing. Employers know that by subjecting their employees to drug tests, without sound reasoning, will be subject to federal and state laws.

The knowledge of drug use is job-relevant information. A person who uses drugs can be a huge liability to themselves, the employer, co-workers, and the public. Drug users tend to have lower productivity compared to non-drug users. Drug users also have higher work injuries compared to non-drug users. What does this mean? High costs. Costs can be measured in the expense of absenteeism, injuries, health insurance claims, loss of productivity, employee morale, theft and fatalities. However, these reasons are not the only reasons businesses should conduct drug tests. Most of us agree that the drug problem in the United States is a major problem that will most likely never be solved in our lifetime, if ever. It is the firm's responsibility, however, to provide a work environment as safe as possible for employees and for the greater good of the general public.

John Stewart Mill states that, "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." The principle of utility should be seen as a means for generating secondary moral principles. For example, "don't steal," promotes happiness because more people would generally be happier, this is the key concept of Mill's utilitarianism theory. Promoting drug testing in the workplace would bring general happiness to society. Having peace of mind that the doctor operating on them will perform his job duties correctly, the bus driver driving kids safely to and from school, the CEO who has a secretary take important phone calls and the businessperson who frequently flies is a responsible person, and is free of drugs. Businesses can avoid the argument of the whether or not drug testing is job related by stating in the contract that drug tests will be given, for what reasons and why.

There is no such thing as "leave your home life home and your work at work." Every person who is employed brings a part of their home life to work. The argument of "what I do when I am not at work is none of your business" can only go so far. In most cases, businesses do not care what one does in the privacy at their home. It only becomes an issue when it starts to affect job performance, the health and safety of the employee, co-workers, and the general public. Drug users cannot simply wiggle their noses and wish the drugs they took leave their body instantly; therefore, personal home life is brought on to the workplace.

Mills argues that it is okay to allow interference with a person's rights in order to prevent harm. For example, in the construction industry, there are major on-the-job drug issues. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health released in 2005 a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C. that there were about 19 million past-month illicit drug users. The chart below is the percentages in the construction industry of illicit drug users.

Substance abuse among different occupations in the construction industry.

These percentages are frightening because these people are big liabilities to contractors and the general public. An error in construction work can cause major damages, serious injuries, and possible fatalities.

There is also the argument that not every person should be tested. Reason being, there are jobs that do not pose a clear and present danger for causing harm if performed under the influence of drugs. Refering to the construction industry , assume that a construction "runner" (a person who runs materials to another person to do a task) is under the influence of drugs. While climbing up a ladder to hand a co-worker a hammer, they miss a step because they have drugs in their system, reaches for help, falls, pulling



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