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Employees Privacy Rights In The Work Place

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Even though employers should have the right to safeguard their companies there should be a happy medium between the two when it comes to privacy rights of employees. In everything there must be boundaries or rules in place to avoid over indulgence.

We can go a step further to list other areas where employees struggle for the right to privacy on the job. Other areas of concern when it comes to employee privacy rights range from property searches, Alcohol and drug testing, medical testing, and the release of personal information. .

Drug and alcohol abuses continue rising across the nation. Seventy-one percent of all drug users over the age of 18-more than 10 million workers-are employed full or part time, according to the Department of Labor. Drug abuse affects such financial areas as sick leave, medical costs and workers' compensation costs. Substance abusers file three to five times more workers' compensation claims than the average employee and account for 38 percent to 50 percent of all claims. "Employed drug abusers cost their employers about twice as much in medical and workers' compensation claims as their drug-free coworkers," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition, substance abuse leads to higher rates of violence and contributes to the increasing problem of violence in the workplace. It is important for policymakers to enact legislation that balances the need for safe and productive workplaces with upholding individuals' rights to privacy.

Legalized, mandatory drug testing in the workplace has caused quite a stir. Proponents

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claim that employers have every right to expect workers to be sober on the job, especially when workplace or public safety and security are a concern. Opponents do not deny that employers are correct in that expectation, and agree that concern is justified when security or safety is at risk.

But opponents argue that random, workplace drug testing is not the proper way to check for sobriety on the job, because it does not prove that you are impaired. If you test positive, all it proves is that you likely copped a buzz, somewhere at sometime. Opponents don't think that's any of your employer's business, if you didn't do it in the workplace and aren't impaired on the job.

But, as it is, it doesn't matter whether you use drugs responsibly, infrequently, chronically, or on or off the job. If your drug test is positive, you might suffer consequences, even if you've never shown signs of a residual high from the night before, taken too many "sick" days off or copped a buzz while working. You might even suffer the same consequences a serious drug abuser would, just for experimenting once with a drug too close to a random test.

The use of drugs has been a very serious problem in the US history and it has been a priority problem that has always attracted expedient measures from the part of various law making bodies. However, trends and socio-economic indicators point to the fact that the usage patterns of drugs in the American society is influenced by a majority of factors that are definitely under the sway of social, economic and cultural influences.

In the 1960s, heroin addiction was seen as the greatest threat (after alcoholism) to the

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health and safety of American workers. By the early 1970s other drugs of abuse also

began to be considered threats to industry.

These included all opiates, amphetamines and other stimulants, illicit psychoactive drugs

such as LSD and marijuana, and, to a small but growing extent, prescription drugs such as

tranquilizers and sedatives. It is found from the US Department of Labor that over 8 million Americans are involved in using any kind of illegal drugs. Among them, 73 % are employed.

The Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace had conducted a Gallup Survey of employees. 37 % of the respondents agreed that drug use at workplace has increased in the last 5 years. Most of the respondents were found to agree with the drug testing. It is found that an average cost of drug testing per employee is $11,000-$13,000 annually (Sandy, 2004).

The Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs:

Final Guidelines (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1988), published in response to the president's order, applies to all federal agencies and serves as a model for private industry. It requires all federal testing programs to test urine for marijuana and cocaine and, optionally, for opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine.

There are three basic types of workplace drug-testing programs.

Pre-employment screening of job applicants These programs are the most widely used. Some of them also require drug testing of current employees who wish to transfer to more sensitive positions. Testing is usually done with the applicant's or employee's full prior knowledge.

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Random testing - Such programs involve the selection of a sample from a pool of all employees, or of those in sensitive positions, and may be either announced or unannounced.

Testing for cause - This approach is based on reasonable suspicion about a given employee's current drug use, either because he has exhibited aberrant behavior or because he has been involved in an accident on the job

All drug-testing programs have raised a number of legal questions. The American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs (1987) and Montagne and associates (1988b) discuss legal theories applied to specific challenges of



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