In recent years Illicit drug use has become more prevalent in the workplace. Consequently, many employers began administering random drug tests to ensure the full performance and efficiency of their
employees. While an employer has the right to ensure that his staff are fulfilling their contractual agreements and maximizing potential revenue for the firm, the established drug testing programs that are currently in use are subject to numerous flaws.
Primarily, these tests are both inaccurate and ambiguous and as such they are ineffective at preventing workplace drug abuse. Secondly, the invasive nature of these tests lowers employee morale, which in turn leads to lower performance. Thirdly, these tests require the submission of personal fluids and may reveal other personal information that is not relevant to the scope of the job. Furthermore, the use of these tests is a clear violation of an employee’s personal autonomy. Consequently, due to the aforementioned issues, I strongly believe that the current method of drug testing in the work place does not hold sufficient stance in order to justify the invasion of employee privacy rights. Furthermore, I believe that more effective means are available and should be adopted by employers who are seeking to identify drug users in their workplace.
The central flaw of workplace drug tests is their ambiguity and likelihood of error. Specifically, most workplace drug tests use urine analysis to determine whether the individual in question is guilty of illicit drug abuse. However, statistical data shows that tests using urine samples are subject to over 30% rate of error , and are therefore an inappropriate method of testing. Furthermore, urine sample drug tests detect any traces of drugs that are present in the individual’s body at the time of testing, even though these drugs may no longer be active. Additionally, there are currently 250 medications that could cause a false positive, these include such drugs as Advil, Nuprin, Motrin, and Midol . Furthermore, the test ambiguity results from the fact that the tests do not specify whether the drugs were taken during work hours or whether they were used on the employee’s leisurely time and are therefore a violations of privacy. Lastly, urine analysis tests are time inefficient as any positive results must undergo a second review before they could be remitted as legitimate . Thus, while the central purpose of drug testing is to prevent any potential injuries within the workplace, the length of time that it takes for these tests’ results to come in leaves plenty of opportunity for potential harms and injuries to occur. Consequently, it is apparent that due to their rate of error, lack of precision with regards to the time of abuse, and a lengthy processing period urine sample drugs tests are ambiguous and ineffective and as such should no longer be administered by employers.
The detrimental effects that drugs tests have on employee morale is the second reason why employers should immediately cease their implementation. According to the article “Drug Testing and the Right Privacy: Arguing the Ethics of Workplace Drug testing” by Michael Cranford, drug tests are not only a good means of detecting poor employee performance, but also they enable employers to identify and resolve any drug abuse that is taking place within their workplace . However, in spite of these tests’ ability to identify workplace drug abusers they are highly detrimental as they may foster lower work performance and decrease employee morale. Specifically, seeing as these tests are highly invasive and require the submission of personal body fluids under the supervision of an observer they cause many employees to feel violated and mistrusted . Furthermore, according to Joseph Desjardins and Ronald Duska, authors of “Drug testing in Employment”, the random administration of drug tests to all employees is not only unjustifiable but can also constitute a grave violation of one’s privacy.
Conversely, while administering the drugs to all employees may seem unreasonable, targeting specific workers should also be prohibited as the selected individuals will feel discriminated against and their personal rights will be infringed upon. Consequently, it is apparent that the arbitrary administration of drug tests either to all employees or to specifically selected workers is not justifiable. Furthermore, not only are these tests not effective at maintaining high employee performance they result in lower employee morale and in a decreased work quality.
A third downfall to urine sample drug tests is that they not only reveal any potential illicit substances present in one’s system, but they also detect additional medical information such as pregnancy . Such content may be personal to the employee and should not be disclosed to their employer. According to Desardins and Duska, “ an employee’s right to privacy is violated whenever personal information is requested, collected, and/or used by an employer in a way or for any purpose that is irrelevant to or in violation of the contractual relationship that exists between the employer and employee” . Desardins and Duska further argued that “ Since drug testing is a means for obtaining information, the information sought must be relevant to the contract in order for the drug testing to not violate privacy” . However, seeing as these tests not only specify drug abuse that takes place during work hours, but also reveal any illicit substances used during an employee’s leisurely time they may constitute a violation of one’s privacy. Furthermore, not only do urinary samples fail to specify the time of the illicit abuse, they also reveal additional private information such as pregnancy and the intake of prescribed medication. To conclude, the current method used for the detection of drugs is a violation of privacy as it reveals extraneous personal information about an employee that is not relevant to their work.
Lastly, the forceful administration of mandatory drug testing fails to preserve an individuals’ right to autonomy. According to Diana Zorn, “to respect another’s autonomy is to treat them as individuals having the abilities required to be rational decision makers capable of identifying their own interests and making their own choices about the best means to advance” . However, by prohibiting the subject employees the ability to refuse the test with out negative re-precaution, employers are assuming that people are irrational human beings who in fact are not capable making their own decisions. Furthermore, Information privacy is violated when a person losses control over information that is rightfully personal . Seeing that urine tests reveal leisurely drug use, and other personal conditions, thereby causing the employee to lose control over personal information, and thus taking away ones’ autonomy. Conversely, it could be argued that autonomy has its limitations one of which being the harm principle. According to the harm principle if the preservation of a personal autonomy may lead to potential harm, it is justifiable to not honor such autonomy . However, due the fact that the current method of drug testing requires ample time for processing, such test is unable to prevent a large portion of harms, thereby annulling the harm principle.
To conclude, a thorough analysis of the moral issues involved in the administration of mandatory drug testing in the workplace reveals that such tests are unethical and as such their practice should be ceased. Presently, the majority of drug tests implemented by employers are highly ambiguous and erroneous as they carry a high error rate and are enable to specify the time of the drug use. Furthermore, the primary purpose of these tests is to prevent future injuries in the work place and maintain high employee performance both of which the test fail to accomplish. Lastly, arbitrary urine sample drug tests constitute a grave infringement on employees’ privacy and constitutional rights and as such they should be deemed both unethical and illegal.
Above all else, this method of drug testing fails to preserve an employees sense of autonomy. Given the numerous downfalls that urine sample drug tests carry I conclude that they are highly unethical and should no longer be administered by employers. Instead, workplaces nationwide would be well advised to adopt more effective and less invasive means of drug abuse surveillance by adopting computer based programs, such as the Bowles-Langley Computer Based Drug Testing , and carefully monitoring their staff.