Does An Employer Have The Right To Test Its Employees For Drug Use?
An employer should have the rights to test its employees for drug use.
This is informed by the fact that the market is a free enterprise which entails a willing employee-willing employee concept, otherwise, called the laissez faire.
It is instructive to appreciate the two ethical theories that inform the argument in this paper.
These are the Deontological and the Virtue Ethics theories.
According to the theories, employers have the right to demand certain conditions of their employees.
A conducive environment for working remains a prerequisite for competitive performance.
Drug use remains a hindrance to this environment hence the need for control.
The abuse of drug remains one the most intriguing phenomena in the society. The use of drug transcends several traditions and comes out as passed on phenomena from one generation to the next. Drug abuse has permeated all sectors of the society, both the young and the old are reported to abuse drugs. Abuse of illegal drugs by employees has adverse effects on businesses. Traditionally, drug users would be tested by their employers and if found to be habitual abusers of illegal drugs, they would be fired. Alcoholics were fired for being habitual drunkards and employers had every right to conduct a drug test. Civil rights activists argued that the drug tests amount to intrusion to privacy. Alcoholics were categorized as persons with disability under the Federal Americans with Disability Act. It is now illegal for employers to discriminate potential employees for being alcoholics. It is noteworthy that the attempt to rescue the victims of drug abuse from the abyss and get them back to the bandwagon of national development.
Testing employees for drugs is a complicated moral and legal issue. Employers should take the moralistic and legalistic views proposed by various scholars and philosophers before embarking on conducting a drug test on their employees. Employees who are habitual injectors of drugs and psychotropic substances can pose a financial and social problem to their managers as well as their core workers. Employee absenteeism and increased cases requiring companies and businesses to cater for medical and worker compensation bills for their employees, have made it almost mandatory for employers to test their employees. The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act protects alcoholics in the work places. It prohibits the discrimination of alcoholics and criminalizes making employment decisions by the employer that will be a disadvantage to the employees who are alcoholics. Provided they meet the same work standards and meet the expected level of performance required of the other employees, employees should not be fired for being alcoholics. The Act states that alcoholism synonymous with other addictions and can be cured through rehabilitation.
In the typical employment context, an employee would engage an employer for purposes of benefiting from the employment services. This contract of service and or for service is informed by the fact that the employee would contribute favorably to the organization and see to it that the employer’s monetary and other interests are protected and attained. The drug menace in essence threatens this line of operations. It places the employee at a loss and in a position of inability to perform. This this calls to question the effectiveness of the employee in the work place . It is thus required that the employee assumes operations from an ethical perspective. This is essentially wrought by the ethical practices which considers bad from good within the moral parameters of the society in place. Ethical behavior is not a matter of putting into practice actions that are only required by law, but also those which are right by the societal standards.
On that note, considering the deontological ethics theory as one of the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on the action’s adherence to a rule or duty, Immanuel Kant stated that, to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty . He also stated that it is not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong but the motives of the person who carries out the action. It is this paper’s opinion that employees should carry out their duties diligently as to meet the high expectations of the corporate world. Indeed, the world demands of us certain obligations and standards. In return, the world confers upon persons rights and privileges. Relying on the Kantian reasoning thus, it would be unfair for an employee to indulge in the consumption of drugs and at the same time expect positive feedback in relation to performance evaluation. The employee should appreciate the fact that the immorality in the consumption of drugs though apparent, denies him or her, the positive benefits that are available within the work environment. In that context, it is in his interests not to indulge in drug consumption.
Drug abuse distorts the state of mind and could consequently be followed by irrational actions that could possibly soil chances of getting a promotion. Moreover, it is only morally right for employees to perform their tasks at the office or in their work places with a sober mind. Employees who are high on illegal drugs are often shunned by their co-workers and this eventually leads to reduced financial output.
On the other hand, a normative ethical theory equally emphasizes on virtues or moral character, rather than on duties and rules as does the deontological theory . This theory is known as virtue ethics theory. The virtue ethics theory has its roots in ancient Greek civilization. Tenets of this theory are derived from the works of Aristotle and Plato. Virtue ethics theory falls in the same class with other normative ethical philosophies which are concerned with the sates of committing a moral wrong other than the wrong itself. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argued that for an individual to achieve happiness and wellbeing, he has to perfectly align himself with the ethical virtues of his society. Virtue ethics in application to the special facts of this case would go towards supporting an approach whereby employees stick to the morally acceptable virtues. Accordingly, the concept of drug consumption would be considered as unaccepted hence the society would shy away from the same.
It would not be in good taste for the employee to eat into time that would have been made for other duties and use the same for consumption of drugs. In addition, the consumption in itself would be considered unethical and technically derisive. This compels the employee to shun the same and attempt to engage in the consumption of legal matters rather than the illegal. Any intrusion by the employer with respect to the employee’s use of drugs should be justified by a compelling reason, and should take place by the least intrusive method if the costs are roughly comparable.
This brings us to the main question of whether it is right for an employer to have drug tests done on its employees. Generally, the testing of bodily samples for alcohol and drug in the context of employment involves moral, ethical and legal issues of fundamental importance, requiring a determination of whether it is fair to conduct such testing. Employers consider privacy to be a fundamental right, which in other countries is a legal right, but interpreted flexibly according to the employer’s needs so as to ensure, inter alia, a safe, healthy and productive workforce . It is, therefore, perhaps the most controversial of all methods of identification, which is, testing of bodily substances, in this case drugs.
Testing for drug use is important to employers because it promotes safety and prevents liability for accidents . Employees whose job jeopardizes the employees’ health should be regularly tested to avoid injuries to themselves and the public. It is also useful in determining the medical fitness of an employee for work. Some tasks can only be performed by those who are medically fit. The drug tests in the work place are done to enhance productivity. Employees who are not in the right state of mind find it difficult to cope up with the other workers in the company. Their effectiveness is, therefore, reduced. A company cannot generate high return when its employees do not report to work. Drug testing is done to reduce absenteeism and tardiness in the work place. It is also done to control health costs, to promote confidence among the public that their products and services are being produced or delivered safely and properly, to prevent embarrassment to the employer’s image, to identify and rehabilitate workers, to prevent theft and to discourage illegal or socially unbecoming conduct by employers among many other reasons.
However, most employees do not agree with the importance of testing for drug use, because according to them it amounts to an invasion of their privacy . If not conducted properly, drug testing can cause the company financial loss. If an employee convinces the jury that the drug test is illegal, not only will the company part with large chunks of money but also the company’s image will be destroyed.
Companies should avoid testing all the employees. Random checks should be conducted with care because they are not easy to defend in court. Employers are advised to avoid random checks because of the legal precedents set by the courts. The employer should have a valid reason for testing for drugs otherwise he will have to compensate the employees for the intrusion of their privacy. Drug tests to employees who are not operating risky machines should be accompanied by a valid reason such as misbehavior in the work place or involvement in a recent accident.
Employers should seek the advice of a legal counsel before carrying out a drug test. The lab used for testing should be accredited by the United States department of health and human services. The tests should be done in a way that respects the dignity and the privacy of the employee. Companies that do not have a written drug policy should not carry out drug tests on their employees. Employees should be informed on the reason why a drug test is being carried out. Before the test is carried out, employees should sign a document consenting to the test. No employee should be forced to take a drug test against his or her will. The results of the tests should be kept secret and confidential.
Testing employees for drugs has generated a lot of criticism for violation of the right of privacy. Opponents of drug testing argue that the procedures frequently used in taking the samples of bodily substances can be humiliating and degrading. Due to the high frequency of cheating in drug tests, companies require having to produce a urine sample under the watchful eye of a controller to prevent cheating . They argue that such testing is an inefficient way of promoting safety or health and that there are other better and efficient ways such as putting more attentive supervision or introduction of employee assistance programs. It should be noted that the testing for drugs does not give an indication of current impairment, but only prior use, and, therefore, is not indicative of an individual’s present ability to perform the job. Companies face a challenge from the legal use of drugs by their employees. It should be noted that the abuse of illegal drugs is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employees who abuse legal drugs such as medical prescriptions do not fall under the drug use regulations. Employees who abuse legal drugs cannot be sacked by the companies.
It is this paper’s opinion that employees should be tested for drug use in order to prevent legal liability accrued due an employee who uses drugs and for safety reasons which might cause employers a lot of money in compensations. This means that, using the reasoning of Immanuel Kant under deontological ethics theory, a reasonable employee should know that they are not supposed to go to work under the influence of drugs as this might affect matters at work, more often than not, negatively . They should, therefore, carry out their duties and follow the rules that are laid down for them. Moreover, drug and substance abuse is illegal in most countries. Ingestion of drugs and psychotropic substances in works places is prohibited in most companies. The problem that employers encounter is that employees consume those drugs outside the work places and report to work under the influence of drugs. An individual working under the influence of drugs cannot reach his optimum potential. Employers aware of the aforementioned fact carry out drug tests to ensure that their employees’ act is consistent with the drug policy.
Bearing in mind the theory of virtue ethics, whereby the employee feels the obligation to conform by the societal moral good; the employees would be better working without the influence of drugs. This does not exclude the employer, who also has an obligation to make sure that work is carried out responsibly in a safe and healthy working condition. If drug tests are necessary according to the employer, they should be carried out in a humane way. In a way that does not jeopardize the privacy of the employee. The tests should be analyzed by a certified lab and the results should remain confidential.
Success in business can be achieved in one way by having to test the employers for drug use so as to prevent misfortunes that relate with drug use. It is, therefore, important for an employee to cooperate with its employer when required to be tested for drugs so as to ensure a good working relationship between them and to prevent liabilities.
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