Drug Testing: Is it Taking Away Employee Rights?

Drug Testing In The Workplace

Nearly 80% of employers screen for drug and alcohol use, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. In doing so, are they taking away employee rights?  What rights do you have as an employee if drug and alcohol screening takes place?  And how can drug screening be conducted in a way that maintains rights, instead of violating them?

To find out, read on.

Addict Rights

Almost ten percent of the full-time workforce, age 18-64, have a substance use disorder, according to research conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

For the addict, being employed is better than not.  Being employed means:

  • Responsibility
  • Income
  • Possibly a predictable schedule
  • Most likely an insurance plan that could help with the cost of treatment
  • Most importantly, people who are depending on you

Under such circumstances, even an individual struggling with a substance use disorder may have the best chance of recovery if employed.

That being said, the SAMHSA reports in the same study that addiction costs employers billions per year.

Everyone Has Rights

Substance use costs industries through lost productivity, absenteeism, increased illness or workplace accidents, and sometimes even workplace theft.  Addicts in recovery report having dealt drugs at work, stolen at work to obtain money for drugs, and lied about illness or workplace mishaps while under the influence, or otherwise impacted by drug or alcohol abuse.

Drug testing in the workplace, therefore, protects everyone’s rights.  So long as screening is done fairly and effectively, a drug-free workplace policy can protect both employer and other employees.

Effective Screening

A drug-free workplace starts with an upfront and clearly stated policy.  If you have a “drug-free workplace” you begin by drug screening applicants for employment.  Even just making upfront drug screening a clear-cut policy can act as a deterrent to employment for anyone currently struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.

Then, for current employees, follow this formula:

  1. State company policy clearly and in writing, such as in an employee handbook.
  2. Apply company policy just as stated. If you say you conduct random drug screenings, conduct them, with exact regularity.
  3. Ensure all policy is fairly applied, with no exceptions or bias. If workers will be in the random drug screening pool, so must the boss be.
  4. Adopt a policy of care and support, including an action plan for treatment referral if testing returns with a positive. You want to be effective, but also preserve the dignity of anyone who may be struggling with a silent addiction.
  5. As part of your policy of care for staff, keep in mind that not everyone who tries a drug or alcohol has a substance use disorder. Again, a referral to an outside professional can help evaluate the extent of the problem.

Consider these points in policy, and also the pros and cons of testing.

The Value of Loyalty

In this digital age, where most people have multiple careers over the course of their working years, it can be easy to undervalue loyalty.  Loyalty to your employees may just save a life and get someone back on track.  Loyalty to your workplace can translate into long-term job satisfaction.

An anonymous sage said, “If someone sticks by your side through your worst times, they’re the ones that deserve to be with you through your best times.”

Drug testing is an important component of creating a safe environment for all of your employees and your customers.  You may be surprised by the outcome, and discover an employee in one of their worst times.  Treat that individual with dignity, and they may stick with you and help to create the best of times.

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