Drug Abuse in the Workplace

Our company is facing a major challenge involving employee performance. Recent events such as slowdown in production, increased employee accidents and increased levels of employee theft and absenteeism have raised suspicions on possible drug use at work. My task is to provide an overview of the issues and an assessment of whether or not knowledge of employee drug use is job relevant. I Overview on the Issue Drug abuse is one of the biggest problems of American society. “The U. S.

government reports that over 60 million Americans have tried marijuana, and approximately 20 million have used cocaine…In the 18-25-year-old young adult population representing those entering the work force, 65 percent have experience with illicit drugs, 44 percent within the last year (Klingner & O’Neill, 1991, p. 3). ” Drug abuse in the workplace is a serious offense. Many cases and studies justify to the severe repercussions of using drugs at work. “A typical “recreational” drug user in today’s workforce is 2. 2 times more likely to request early dismissal or time off; 2.

5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more; 3 times more likely to be late for work; 3. 6 times more likely to be injured or to injure another person in a workplace accident; 5 times more likely to be involved in an accident off the job thus affecting attendance and performance on the job; 5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim; 7 times more likely to have wage garnishments; and one-third less productive (Lipman, 1999). ” The data above would worry any business owner and would probably resort to drug testing to control the situation in the workplace.

However, drug testing in employment raises a lot of questions and controversies. Critics have argued that there is no clear relevance to job performance and drug use and that advocates of drug testing rely on weak studies and bogus numbers. Moreover, The Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, possibly subjecting drug-testing companies to lawsuits by employees. Interestingly, the courts didn’t explicitly mention collection and analysis of blood, hair or urine (for drug testing) as unconstitutional so long as reasonable suspicions are established.

II Assessment on “The Contractual Model” Every employee has the right to privacy which, according to Joseph DesJardins and Ronald Duska meant that “certain areas of the employee’s life remain his or her own private concern, and no employer has the right to invade (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 360). ” However, they proposed that testing employees for drug use is valid basing on two arguments: “first, that drug-use adversely affects job performance, and second, that it can harm the employer, other employees and the public (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 360). ”

Contextualizing the issue of productivity, DesJardins and Duska rejected their first argument on the basis that employers are entitled only to a certain level of performance from employees (Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 360). The employer-employee relationship is essentially contractual and for as long as the employee’s performance is satisfactory, then the contract is satisfied and thus, drug testing would be an act of violation to privacy. Even if an employee is found to be using drugs, termination or reprimand should strictly be on the grounds of poor job performance and not on the use of drugs.

The second argument is based on the assumption that employees who use drugs can harm the employer, other employees and the public. Drug testing in this instance is considered acceptable because “employers have both a general duty to prevent harm and the specific responsibility for harms done by their employees (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 362). ” However, DesJardins and Duska emphasized that the procedure should observe certain limitations. The employer should “consider if, when and under what conditions using a means such as drug testing to obtain that knowledge is justified (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p.

360). ” The first limitation is deciding what jobs, if performed under the influence of drugs, have potential to cause harm. “Some jobs – like those of airline pilots, school bus drivers, public transit drivers and surgeons – are jobs in which unsatisfactory performance poses a clear and present danger to others (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 362-363). ” However, for DesJardins and Duska, it is crucial not to assume that everyone holding the same job is the same.

Not all airline pilots in a company should be tested for drugs just because one pilot is exhibiting symptoms of drug use. Doing so “is to ignore their history and the significant differences between them…It is the likelihood of causing harm, and not the fact of being an airline pilot per se, that is relevant in deciding which employees in critical jobs to test (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 363). ” The two also asserted that “the obligations that each party incurs are only those that it voluntarily takes on (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p.

360). ” Given the potential of drug tests to invade a person’s privacy, employees’ consent must be obtained first. “Finally, the drugs being tested should be those drugs that have genuine potential for harm if used in the jobs in question (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 363). ” Furthermore, DesJardins and Duska posited that employers cannot use the illegality of drugs as grounds to seek information about an employee’s drug use. “Illegal activity itself is irrelevant to job performance (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p.

363). ” Companies do not have the right to play “cop” to its employees. It is true that drugs are illegal but off work, it is the government’s role to curtail drug addiction and not of private companies’. III Assessment on “Work, Privacy and Autonomy” Another interesting philosophy is from Richard Lippke, who argued “that privacy is valuable because of its importance for human autonomy. Autonomy is the capacity of persons to make rationally reflective choices about their ends and activities (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p.

365). ” Lippke challenged DesJardins’ contractual model and the job-relevance concept in gathering information about employees. He reasoned that “individual employees rarely have bargaining power equal to that of their prospective employer…This imbalance of power renders most workers practically unable to resist the demands for information that precede and accompany employment offers, and makes all the more urgent the content restrictions Desjardins and Brinket advocates (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 367).

” In other words, Lippke believes that there is no equality that exists between the employers and the employees. Furthermore, the concept of job relevance is relative. Lippke claimed “lots of information DesJardins and Brinket would prevent employers from obtaining is, arguably, job relevant (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 367). ” The concept of autonomy lies on the fact that individuals are rational, responsible beings capable of deciding for themselves, and worthy of trust from society, especially from employers.

It actually contradicts the theory of DesJardins that give employers restricted access to the private lives of employees for purposes of job-relevance. According to Lippke this theory presumes that employees cannot be trusted to act responsibly, and this might impair the employees’ sense that they are worthy of acting autonomously (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 369). Lippke emphasized that we live in a time where “work technology is decided by others, as are productivity quotas, criteria for evaluation, discipline procedures, and plant closings or employee lay-offs.

Even the attitudes with which work is to be done are prescribed and pressures are put on workers to “be loyal members of the team” or to “please the customer at all costs (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 370). ” Lippke believed that the question to ask is “not whether we should endorse the use of methods that undermine employee autonomy (but) whether we should endorse the use of methods that might further erode employee autonomy (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 370).

” But because we also live in the age of capitalism, the argument on the property rights of owners and stockholders is valuable as well. Yet, Lippke argued that “property rights to productive resources differ from privacy rights. Respecting privacy rights does not provide individuals with increased control over the lives of others…while property rights do give some power over the lives of others (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 370). ” Lippke went on to question the factors that could very well be contributing to behavioral problems in the workplace (that may essentially lead to drug use).

He established that organizational characteristics such as long work hours, job insecurity, high pressure, poor job matching and poor working conditions significantly contribute to the drug or behavior problem in the workplace (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 371). Even in the issue of people’s health and safety versus privacy rights, Lippke’s response is still directed to the fundamental changes in the organization of work that could potentially lessen or eliminate problematic behaviors in the workplace (as cited in Shaw & Barry, 2007, p. 371). IV Summary and Recommendations

I agree with DesJardins and Duska that job-relevance is the only crucial component that makes testing employees for drugs valid. The primary reason of the employer in drug-testing the employees should be for the interest of the business stakeholders and for the employees’ and the public’s safety. The general acceptable facts that drugs have mood and behaviour altering effects to the human body, and can impair motor and cognitive skills, are good reasons that the use of drugs can lead to accidents in the workplace thus, harm others, if left unchecked.

Faced with the responsibility of safeguarding the public’s safety, the best option for any company is a preventive one. But, in the interest of creating balance in the workplace, I also agree with the argument of Lippke on autonomy. Individuals should have the right to determine the best possible action for themselves. This is why Desjardins is correct to suggest that seeking information about an employee should be with the consent of the concerned individual. It cannot be coercive, especially not at the expense of the individual’s job.

Yet, I would argue that drug-testing should be the last resort in solving behavior-related problems. There are other less invasive methods such as psychological and motor-skills test that a company can pursue. Even counseling with a company psychologist might be a good way of knowing the underlying problems that confront an individual. If and when the Management so decide to pursue drug-testing, it should involve employees in drafting a carefully designed and structured program that is minimally intrusive of employees’ privacy rights.

It is generally accepted that when employees enter the workforce, they are in effect giving up to a certain extent their right to privacy as they are subject to monitoring of the management, performance-wise. Even so, employees still expect to be treated with utmost dignity and respect regardless of the situation and events. Thus, there hangs a delicate balance between the separate interests of the employer and the employees that need to be protected. References Klingner, D. , & O’Neill, N. G. (1991).

Workplace drug abuse and AIDS: A guide to human resource management policy and practice. New York: Quorum Books. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=24421729. Lipman, I. A. (1999). Employee Drug Testing Reduces Drug Abuse. Opposing Viewpoints: Drug Abuse. Ed. Jennifer A. Hurley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from <URL>. Shaw, W. H. , & Barry V. (2007). Moral issues in business. (10th ed. ). CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

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