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Over the years, major concerns have been raised in regards to requiring employees getting a drug test in the workplace. The question of concern is whether the use of such means would be ethically correct and socially desirable action for the employer, or it would instead infringe on the privacy rights that the employee has got. The first argument is the effect of giving employees drug tests really related to the important job functions. The second argument is that it can harm the employer, other employees, and the general public related to these companies. There are groups of people that will argue that the employee's right to privacy is violated whenever these programs are carried out. This is because the personal information of the employee is requested, collected, or used by an employer in any way or purpose that is in violation of the relationship that exists between employees and the employer.
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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. Among the major industries that are under pressure to apply this drug testing programs are the travel sector and the industrial sector. The passenger service industry is inclusive of the bus drivers and the airplane pilots while the industrial sector majorly focuses on handling of heavy machinery. The use of drugs by these bus drivers, airplane pilots and the heavy equipment handlers has more often than once resulted to casualties. This has prompted the introduction of the drug testing program at these workplaces (Tom, 4).
The American Civil Liberties Union (5) observes that the knowledge of drug use is job-relevant information. This is because the effects of these drugs are seen directly at the work place that these individuals are directly responsible. A person operating machines at a factory and who uses drugs at the same time 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. This costs the company a huge loss because the production levels go down and the company ends up losing a lot of money. Drug users also have higher work injuries compared to non-drug users. Airplane Pilots have got to concentrate on their jobs if at all they are to transport people safely from one place to the next. Under the influence of drugs, these pilots cannot concentrate on their jobs and normally end up causing accidents that result in casualties.
Mosher & Akins (230), add that the same applies to bus drivers. Bus drivers are responsible for a lot of human lives that they transport. This also includes the pedestrians that are on the paths. Lack of concentration in their driving results into accidents because of the influence of these drugs that they are under. This loses incurred because of the influence of the drugs mean high costs for the company involved. Costs can be measured in different ways. These include the expense of absenteeism, injuries and health insurance claims. They can also be measured by the loss of productivity that was initially being felt by the company, the employee morale going down, and also the fatalities incurred by company accidents. These reasons are however not the only reasons that companies should conduct drug tests. The drug problem in the United States is a major problem that will most likely never be solved in our lifetime. It is the company's responsibility, however, to provide a work environment as safe as possible for employees and for the greater good of the general public (The American Civil Liberties Union, 3).
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 ought to be looked at as a means for generating secondary moral principles. For example, "don't steal," promotes happiness because more people would generally be happier. Promoting drug testing would create general happiness to society. One will have a peace of mind that the doctor operating on them will perform his job duties correctly. That the bus driver driving kids safely to and from school will do so politely. Companies 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. This is stated for what reasons and why.
The percentages related to drug accidents 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 (Tom, 3). Reason being, there are jobs that do not pose a clear and present danger for causing harm if performed under the influence of drugs. With reference 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 the co-worker down with him. Most people would agree that the runner's job function does not pose a clear and present danger under the influence, but in this case it does. His actions have put his colleague in danger too even though it is not directly related.
Sawvel (80) explains that drug testing is a relatively recent phenomenon that has caused a tidal wave of hatred towards drug use. This loathing that the country grew towards drugs was initially fueled by The Firestone Company. This happened in 1972. A speaker at Firestone claimed of use of drugs and the workplace together with statistical data (Mosher & Akins, 234). This data that showed how drugs affected workplace safety and productivity started a media and governmental frenzy. It influenced many tests and studies in hopes to show the world what drugs are doing to our country. Years later, it turns out that the data in the firestone study was completely false and there was no actual study conducted. Nevertheless, the general public still kept the negative views for drugs in their mind. The Reagan Administration to another level in drug testing by funding research and development into new technologies. This was particularly those that identify drugs or drug metabolites in urine. This influenced the general public to view drug use as one of our nation's biggest problems.
The public failed to view the correct information about drug abuse. Nearly 400,000 Americans die each year from tobacco. In this, drug abuse only accounts for roughly 4,000 deaths. William H. Shaw, author of Ethics at Work, said, "If the person is as productive as any other worker then the knowledge of drug use regarding employee productivity is irrelevant since the performance is satisfactory" (Tom, 3). Drug usage by an employee while on the job will cause impairment and lowered performance, but the impairment only lasts an average of four hours after consumption. If the employee uses drugs the weekend before he is scheduled to work then the use of drugs has no effect on the productivity or safety that the said employee performs. This is the main criticism to the argument that drug usage makes an unsafe workplace. The only way for drugs to lower productivity and cause possible dangers is if the employee is abusing the drug or using substance on work hours. Casual or recreational marijuana smokers do not pose a high risk mainly because they tend to use marijuana only casually. A study which involved construction companies was performed to determine whether drug testing is effective in increasing workplace safety. The study consisted of over 700 different companies and reported that after implementing drug testing, the overall safety of the workplace was identical to before the testing. Thus, this showed that implementing drug screening tests in the workplace will not have a direct effect on the safety of the environment.
Opponents of drug-testing in the workplace also argue that there are not enough limitations on drug-testing policies. It is acceptable that having a drug-testing policy that puts the employees at jeopardy is not a noble thing. Putting them in a position that requires all employees to submit to a drug test or to jeopardize their jobs would seem a bit coercive. Thus, it is therefore unacceptable. Having a drug-testing policy written down is better. This is one which states that random drug testing will take place at the work place.
If drugs are found as a result of the test, the following steps will be taken via what is written in the business employee handbook. To address the limitations and legality of the testing, the handbook should state that it's the company's desire to maintain a safe working environment and a drug and alcohol free workplace, testing policies, all employees consent to tests, outline the consequences, a provision for a re-test by a different method in event of a positive test result, a way for employees to file grievances, and positive results may lead to termination or referral to an employee assistant program (Sawvel, 78).
The noblest way of testing employees would be to carry out random drug tests using a third party. John Rawls believes that justice must be associated with fairness and the moral equality of persons.
All employees should be subjected to the random drug testing, from the CEO all the way down to maintenance. In Rawls theory, the difference principle states that the inequalities are justified only if they work to the benefit of the least advantaged group in society. The question then is who is the least advantaged group? Two arguments can be made. First, the people who test positive on their drug test. These people may not have the means to seek appropriate intervention; therefore, having a concerned company for the welfare of their employees may help the employee get the help they desperately need (DuPont & Marcus, 18). Also, society in broadness can be seen as the least advantaged people. Companies who endorse drug testing on all employees show a general concern to their customers' safety and well-being.
A last problem caused by drug-testing at the workplace is the idea of voluntariness. Opponents of drug-testing feel that the choice between submitting to a drug test and risking one's job by refusing an employer's request is not much of a decision at all. It is not ethically wrong for a company to demand that their current and future employees be subjected to drug testing because it is the company's right to do so (DuPont & Marcus, 16). The general public demands that companies act in an ethical and social way. Is it wrong for the company to demand the same of its employees? No. If a company has got a drug policy and it goes on to not enforce it, it is not acting in an ethical way. There would be no point of having a drug-testing policy if it is not enforced. Enforcing the drug policy is the most important action that usually does not take place. Until employers change the way they conduct their drug-testing policies, society will not benefit from this policy.