Nature of the Drug-Abuse Problem
The Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace recognizes the pervasive substance-abuse problem which faces American society. These problems pose an enormous risk to public health and safety, and have substantial social and economic costs and consequences in every community and for virtually every American.
In particular, the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace recognizes the threat that drug abuse—cognizant that alcohol is a major drug of abuse—poses in the business community for employers and employees alike. Among other consequences, drug abuse decreases productivity and increases accidents, absenteeism, product defects, medical and insurance costs, and employee theft. Employers and employees have a large stake and legitimate role to play in the “war on drugs.”
Employer and Employee Rights
For employees, the consequences of drug abuse can be tragic not only for users and their families, but also for coworkers and customers who are put in jeopardy by others’ illicit use of drugs. Moreover, beyond the physical dangers, employees’ jobs may be jeopardized if a company’s profitability is undermined by the poor performance, mistakes and accidents of drug abusers.
For employers, the consequences of drug abuse can be highly detrimental. If American companies are to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy, they must strive to maintain a work force that is free from drug abuse.
In so doing, company drug-abuse prevention programs should be implemented in a fair, consistent, and equitable manner with due consideration of the rights, responsibilities, and privacy interest of all concerned parties.
In regard to employee rights, companies must maintain a commitment to all their employees, including the vast majority who are not and will not become drug abusers. Business’s responsibility to protect employees and employees’ rights goes far beyond protecting the rights of those who choose to engage in illicit drug use. Employers not only have a right to strive to maintain a workplace free from drug abuse, they have a duty to do so.
In regards to drug testing, employers should have the right to implement drug testing as part of their drug abuse prevention program. The Institute recognizes that drug testing is not for all employers and all employment situations; that drug testing is not in and of itself a drug abuse prevention program; and that drug testing should be done “right” or not at all.
“Right,” in regards to drug testing, includes: (1) acting in accordance with a written corporate policy, (2) performing confirming tests using a different chemical process to help assure accuracy before acting upon a “positive” drug screen, (3) assuring chain-of-custody and proper documentation for test samples, (4) maintaining the confidentiality of test results as reasonably and appropriately as feasible, and (5) acting with scientifically and medically accepted laboratory protocols and procedures to assure accuracy and fairness. Employers also should reasonably strive to minimize any intrusiveness of their testing programs on employees.
While recognizing the necessity of procedural and policy safeguards to drug testing and the limitations of drug testing (vis-a-vis an overall comprehensive drug abuse prevention program), the Institute also recognizes that drug testing, if done properly: (1) can be a vital component of an effective drug-abuse prevention program; (2) is fair and accurate; (3) can have a strong deterrent effect on drug abuse; (4) is a legitimate and appropriate prerogative of employers; and (5) is ultimately in the interest of both employees and employers. Perhaps most importantly, drug testing works.