Workplace drug testing

Workplace drug testing has been legally approved in several states of U.S.A., but the procedure is not controlled by law. However, in such states, the employer can legally ask an employee to undertake a drug test at the workplace due to any reason. No warrant is required for this purpose as in other cases. Sometimes, without any possible cause, an employee may have to undertake a drug test as part of random checking.

There has been quite a bit of controversy over the issue of making drug testing at the workplace compulsory by law. The group of people in favor of making drug testing mandatory believes that an employer has the right to ensure that the employees are clear-headed while they are on the job. This holds true specially in case of occupations where the interest and safety of the public are involved. On the other hand, the group against legalization of workplace drug testing also maintains that an employer is justified in being concerned in this respect, especially when public safety and security depend upon the employee. However, this group believes that drug testing at the workplace is not the correct method to ensure whether employees have imbibed drugs at the workplace or not. If an employee gets a positive result when tested for drugs, it would only indicate that he consumed drugs. It would not indicate where and when the drugs were imbibed. This group believes that an employee cannot be held liable if he has not consumed drugs at his place of work and if he can effectively function at the workplace.

This testing makes it immaterial whether you use drugs sporadically or frequently, use them wisely or not or whether you consume them at the workplace or not. If your result is positive, you are bound to pay the price for the same, irrespective of whether you consumed drugs the night before or on the same day at the workplace. You might have to face the same penalty that a chronic drug user would, even though you might have tried drugs for the first time on the day of a random drug test.

This controversy was sparked off when President Reagan signed the "Executive Order 12564" on September 15, 1986. This was done in an attempt to make Federal workplaces completely free of drugs. According to the Order, all Federal employees would have to abide by the condition to avoid illegal drug use both on and off the job. This, in turn, gave rise to the Drug-free Workplace Act, 1988. Initially, these laws were applicable only to Federal employees, but other states also followed suit in course of time.

Antagonists of mandatory drug testing commiserate with the fact that drug abuse is indeed rising to grave proportions in U.S.A., but they are of the belief that such testing is not the right approach towards doing away with this problem. They believe that this would violate the employees' right to privacy and would give rise to more illegal abuse. The laws relating to workplace drug testing are still in the early stages of evolution. They are quite complex and have a number of loopholes.

In spite of these controversies, workplace drug testing is undertaken in several states. Legal guidelines relating to collecting as well as testing of samples have been developed, but the situations under which drug testing may be undertaken at the workplace are not controlled by law in all states. Even if there are guidelines in certain states to this respect, they are not entirely followed in every case. Moreover, some employers are not fully aware of such guidelines.

Only some states have developed "Employee workplace privacy rights". No federal privacy rights have been developed at all. Under these circumstances, employers sometimes misuse their ability to invade the privacy of their employees. Sometimes even innocent victims have to prove themselves.