Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing

When employees face the reality of mandatory drug and alcohol testing they often feel resentment toward their employer for being required to undergo the process. Yet in today’s world such testing is, more often than not, an official part of every credible employment contract. What, then, is the origin of employee resentment? And what, if anything, should employers do to overcome, sidestep, or diminish employee concerns?

Resentment toward Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing

It seems ironic that employee resentment for workplace drug testing (and workplace alcohol testing) runs high, even among those who neither drink nor use drugs. “After all,” a manager might argue, “they have nothing to fear if they’re clean.” But perhaps fear has nothing to do with it.

Drug-and-alcohol-testing-kitThe negative arguments recorded by employees regarding alcohol and drug testing are highly personal in nature, whereas the arguments by owners and management favoring testing are far more impersonal. Employees are quoted as making statements such as:

  • They should have no right to use my body to seek evidence against me.
  • This is just a way to get rid of the people they don’t want to work here any longer.

Managers and business owners, on the other hand, make statements such as:

  • Everyone who works here agrees to workplace alcohol testing before they’re offered a position.
  • Those who are tested are picked randomly. Everybody will undergo workplace drug testing eventually.

While employers view drug and alcohol testing as a natural and understandable condition of employment, meant to further the health of the organization, the safety of employees and others, and to comply with any related government regulations, employees often view the process as an unreasonable invasion into the most private aspect of their lives: their own bodies. From there both sides often move further apart.

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The Solution: Bringing the Sides Together

To alleviate this problem management should approach the prospect of drug testing empathetically, seeking to help employees understand the value of a corporate culture that has no room for inappropriate alcohol or drug use. They should neither become defensive about the performance of drug and alcohol tests, nor should they resort to the authoritative claim that employment is conditional upon testing. Both management and employees want the company to be healthy. Accidents and problems associated with drug and alcohol use can endanger the company, jobs, and the employees themselves.

Employees can be proud of the fact that the work place has fewer accidents, and their jobs are more secure, because they are fully committed to the company’s drug and alcohol testing policy. Helping employees to “buy-in” to this attitude can begin immediately after they are hired in new employee orientation. In such an orientation fellow employees who are committed to the policy can be invited to share their feelings about how important the drug and alcohol testing policy is.

And finally, employers should seek to make the drug testing process as non-intrusive as possible. Saliva drug testing, for example, is quick and easy, and removes much of the discomfort often associated with such tests. By focusing upon the mutually important motives to maintain a drug and alcohol-free work environment, while being sensitive to employee concerns, management can successfully overcome resistance to workplace drug and alcohol testing.

About our guest author:

The article has been guest written by Michael who is a professional writer. Michael is currently writing for Integrity Sampling, Australia’s leading saliva drug testing and workplace alcohol testing company. Read more about workplace alcohol testing at Integrity Sampling.

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12 Responses to Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing

  1. Pingback: Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Dru...

  2. Mel G says:

    You raise some really interesting topics in your blog, and it has given me pause for thought.
    The title of your blog:
    “Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing”, raises the broader question is it ethical to drug test employees.

    Several thoughts come to mind on this topic and may also address some of the points you have made above.

    • An Individuals right to privacy.

    This is a hurdle in drug testing that I find very hard to get over. As individuals we have a basic right to privacy. We have the right to have a life outside of the office, that is our own and that the organisation has no jurisdiction over.
    This has been a right that has been fought for by many generations before us:

    Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘No one shall
    be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or
    correspondence, nor to attacks upon their honour and reputation. Everyone
    has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks’
    (General Assembly of the United Nations, 1948).

    In my opinion drug testing crosses a very definite line into the invasion of an individual’s right to privacy. Drug testing is in place to pick up all legal or illegal use of drugs – prescription or otherwise, no matter when the use of the drug occurred (within the testing boundaries) or what the reason for the drug use was.
    This surely blurs the line between the office and home. When does the employee/employer relationship end?…
    Does your employer have the right to impose what you can and can not do on your own time?. Drug testing is certainly giving the organisation a say in what happens outside the office. It is providing them with information about what has occurred outside the business.

    You comment:
    It seems ironic that employee resentment for workplace drug testing (and workplace alcohol testing) runs high, even among those who neither drink nor use drugs.
    Clearly it isn’t ironic that human rights are being violated, whether you choose to use or not to use alcohol or drugs. The issue is the invasion of privacy.
    • The testing:
    Putting aside the privacy issues that are raised above, and given that now there is legislation in place around drug use in the workplace , I would like to address the issue of the actual testing.
    Take the hypothetical case of a marijuana user – please keep in mind I am not an advocate of illegal drug use – marijuana stays in your system for a sustained period of time, so when it comes to testing this may be picked up, however the use of this drug has not affected or impaired the users performance at work.
    The employee has a desk job processing paperwork, so the drug use will not harm anyone else in the workplace. Your comments above that:
     “Those who are tested are picked randomly. Everybody will undergo workplace drug testing eventually.”
    Desjardins and Duska (2001) suggest the following:
    • There must be a clear and present potential for harm. This must be justified
    by reference to both the type of job and the record of the person doing (Open Polytechnic Business Ethics 2013, Module, 2 P40)

    • The drugs tested for must be only those drugs the use of which really is
    potentially harmful in that job. (Open Polytechnic Business Ethics 2013, Module, 2 P40)

    I think we have an obligation to evaluate the appropriateness of whether an employee should be tested. If as above the role does not have the potential to put others in harms way, then it is not appropriate to invade the employee’s privacy with testing.

    If the drug use is affecting their work, this will be picked up with regular performance reviews. Drug testing does not tell us how our employees are performing.

    You then soften your stance by saying:

    “nor should they (management) resort to the authoritative claim that employment is conditional upon testing.”

    I would say that if drug use has the potential to cause harm to another person or employee of the organisation, then employment is conditional upon that testing.

    Drug testing with in the workplace has to be treated very carefully and there has to be rigorous rules in place around this. Yes there is a very real invasion of the individual’s right to privacy but this has been counter balanced by the employees right to a safe workplace.

    The actual drug test must not be looked at as a performance measure because it is giving you clinical information, it is not telling you how impaired an employees performance is. If there is a potential for another person to be put in danger then we have an obligation to stop that harm.

    There is a difference between drug use and drug abuse, and this must also be addressed in the organisations decision to drug test. The organisation must have a plan in place in how to deal with unexplained positive test results, in a fair way to all employees.

    This may mean a no tolerance stance, so any unexplained positive test results in immediate dismissal. However an organisation may choose to look at rehabilitation programs and counselling options in setting their policy.

    Putting aside the obvious privacy elephant in the argument, drug testing has proven to be effective in reducing workplace accidents and harm. An organisation has an ethical obligation to their employees to make sure that testing is done in a fair way to both parties, and that testing is only performed where there is potential harm. Setting a clear policy around drug testing that addresses the process, the ramifications and expectations at the onset of employment sets clear boundaries for both employer and employee.
    References
    Desjardins, J., & Duska, R. (n.d.). Drug testing in employment. In T. L. Beaucamp & N. E. Bowie (Authors), Ethical theory and business (6th ed., pp. 283-294). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. http://dx.doi.org/2001
    Module 2 – Ethics and Employment Realtions: The Open Polytechnic NZ – Business Ethics 71203. (n.d.). Lower Hutt, Wellington. http://dx.doi.org/2013
    UN General Assembly. (1948, December 10). Article 12 – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved January 20, 2014, from United Nations website: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

  3. Ray Tango says:

    Reblogged this on raytango1.

  4. Aneri says:

    Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing raises a few valid points that depict the importance of the right to privacy and the enforcement of drug testing in the workforce. Investigating this topic allows us to answer the question, ‘Is it ethical to drug test employees or do employees have the ability to fight for personal identity?’ This blog backs up prime reasons why drug testing is important in the workforce and conflicting issues of an individual’s right to privacy. Based on the comments made in the blog, I conclude that it is ethical to drug test employees.
    I disagree with a statement regarding ‘fear’. It is difficult to compromise, but in fairness to say, fear has everything to do with someone who is hesitant to undergo a drug test. The statement from the blog, “they have nothing to fear if they’re clean.” ‘But perhaps fear has nothing to do with it’. It can be hugely debated that the right to privacy is someone’s biggest concern facing a drug test. In today’s environment, testing for alcohol or drugs is a part of every credible employment contract. This suggests that all employees who argue about undertaking a drug test must be ashamed and more likely scared about the outcome. In all rightness, fear has an enormous bearing on someone arguing about a drug test. However, this does not prevent the possibility that employees may fear unfair punishment by their employers. This blog gives examples of fear-motivated employee statements such as “seek evidence against me” and “get rid of people they don’t want to work here any longer” suggesting that employees fear abuse from their employers and not the test itself.
    Human Rights to privacy
    Privacy is a important human right which is recognised in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and also in many other international and regional treaties (Teachandcentre, 2012). Privacy underpins human dignity and other key values that enforce the right for privacy for each and every individual.. Although humans have the right to privacy, they also have the right to be safe while working and being a part of society. In my opinion, no one should be working in an unsafe and harmful environment where they can be put in danger, nor should someone pose himself or herself to be harmful to others and in the community where they are considered vulnerable in hurting others or putting them in risk. It is in my opinion that the safety of others exceeds an individual’s right to privacy as the actions of an individual can have a significant impact on society as a whole.

    Enforcing a positive and safe workforce

    How would you feel knowing that your bus driver who took you to work was driving under the influence of drugs?
    Ask yourself, would you find it acceptable knowing your doctor was affected by alcohol or other drugs when treating you?
    Drug testing has been proposed to address safety issues raised by the presence of intoxicated employees in the workplace (WordPress, 2014). Employers are eager to protect their workers, therefore drug testing is an important tool in retaining a positive business image. It is critical for those in the workforce that they do not pose a threat to others nor put their own lives at risk. Employees owe a duty of care when working with others, operating heavy machinery or dealing with customers. It is valid to say if you want to be employed, every job consists of being involved with others and therefore taking drugs is not appropriate as you impose a threat to society.
    Employers want to retain and build a good corporate culture within a business. The environment of an organisation is an important aspect on how well it performs. The New Zealand Drug Detection Agency Bay of Plenty says “more local companies have recognised the benefits of drug testing, not just in terms of safety but also employee morale and productivity” (Inglis, 2012). An employer should only undergo a test where they see a problem arising or an employee acts out of ordinary behaviour. Human rights may be violated when you are forced to do a drug test but it is important to note that putting others at risk is morally unacceptable. Therefore there should be no questions asked when employers have the right to test employees in order to see whether they are best fit for the job as well as minimising harm in the workforce.
    By referring to the hypothetical example below, we are able to answer the questions stated above. In this hypothetical situation your doctor is influenced by drugs and operates which many medical tools. Do you think the doctor’s personal rights are of more importance of their patients and society as a whole? Is it fair to say, an employer has the right to take a drug test in order to make sure the community can have a safe doctor to visit? Not all circumstances can fall in this situation, however this example fits in a broad aspect as most employees have to face and work with others as part of their job. Drug testing in the workforce can attribute to and greatly enhance health and safety in the workplace and reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries related to working under the influence (Hartney, 2011).
    The benefits of drug testing can be extensive, creating a safer and more productive workplace for all involved. It is evident that drug testing is an effective tool in reducing harm and accidents in the workforce. In order to keep it fair for both parties and in addressing the conflict between drug testing and the right to privacy, an employer must set clear guidelines in regarding to drug testing which will help rectify this on-going issue.

    References:
    Hartney,. E. (2011). Should worplace drug testing be allowed? Available: http://addictions.about.com/od/dailylifewithaddiction/i/drugtesting.htm (5 January 2014).

    Inglis,. (2012). Focus must always be on safety. Available: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503346&objectid=11053157 (18 January 2014).

    Teachlawcentre, (2012). Privacy. Available: http://www.techandlaw.net/areas-of-interest/privacy-3.html (20 January 2014).

    WordPress, (2014). White collar workplace drug testing on the increase. Available:
    http://www.hrdevelopment.co.nz/2012/01/white-collar-workplace-drug-testing-on-the-increase/ (22 January 2014).

  5. Martin-Hughes says:

    In your blog you essentially aim to help employers overcome employee resistance to workplace drug testing by claiming that, ‘Management should approach the prospect of drug testing empathetically, seeking to help employees understand the value of a corporate culture that has no room for inappropriate alcohol or drug use.’ In addition you mention that employees resent employers because they think employers will use drug testing information against them and that employees feel drug testing is an invasion of privacy. I sympathise with these employees and believe their reasons for resisting workplace drug testing are valid. (Fox, 2013) reports, ‘some workers had won compensation after being unjustifiably dismissed because of drug tests. (Desjardins & Duska, 2001) says for drug testing not to violate privacy the information sought from drug testing should be relevant to the contractual relationship between the employer and employee. Despite these points many employers continue to invade the privacy of others by implementing arbitrary workpace drug testing regimes. I find it difficult to understand how an employer’s corporate culture, which has no room for inappropriate use of alcohol or drug use, addresses these issues.

    Interestingly you state that ‘employers view drug and alcohol testing as a natural and understandable condition of employment, meant to further the health of the organization, the safety of employees and others, and to comply with any related government regulations’ . Yet this employer’s view doesn’t seem to consider the impact of testing on the employee. What about the employee’s values? Should all employers universally be able to take blood, urine or saliva samples from any employee for the purpose of knowing if an employee consumed drugs or alcohol? No. The NZ employment court also agrees by ruling that it would only be reasonable to test employees who work in safety sensitive areas. Your solution and your view of what employers consider “natural” or “understandable” conditions of employment lack impartiality. Furthermore, is this an employer’s view or a drug company’s view? (Desjardins & Duska, 2001) says ‘justifying drug testing is justifying a means to an end, the end to prevent harm, and the means are means which intrude into one’s privacy, one should be clear that there are not more effective means available’. It makes sense that you would be an advocate for testing given the company you work for has a product to sell; but what troubles me is that drug testing will be your preferred method of preventing harm there by rejecting more effective means available.

    So is testing necessary? How effective is drug testing in preventing harm?

    (Gillespie) quotes, ‘Victoria University’s Julian Buchanan ,The Associate Professor and Programme Director for the university’s Criminology School has worked in substance abuse management for three decades, and he doubts the benefits of workplace drug testing’

    ‘Human error in the lab, or the test’s failure to distinguish between legal and illegal substances, can make even a small margin of error add up to a huge potential for false positive results. In one year in America, an estimated 22 million tests were administered. If five percent yielded false positive results (a conservative estimate of false positive rates) that means 1.1 million people who could have been fired, or denied jobs – because of a mistake’. (American Civil Liberties Union, 1997)

    Another claim supporting workplace drug and alcohol testing is that it improves productivity; there by also implying that substance abusers are unproductive. (Desjardins & Duska, 2001) says, ‘performance is person related and the best efforts at a particular task might produce results well below the norm, and the minimal efforts of for example a substance abuser, may produce abnormally high results.’ Knowledge of drug use then becomes irrelavant and uneccesary; performance then becomes the issue.

    Similarly employers argue that when hiring they have the right to test and take preference for non-drug users. But testing is uneccesary in this situation because employers incorporate probationary periods into the contract with employees .

    Drug test results can show that a person consumed drugs or alcohol. It is not however evidence of drug abuse or evidence of impairment (71203 Business Ethics Module Two, 2013). How does that knowledge prevent harm? In short, it doesn’t. Let’s take an employee who displays drunken behaviour. He is tested for drugs; there’s a time lapse waiting for results, usually days, then the employer finds out how much of a drug this person used. Many employees resent being subject to testing as it fails to prevent harm or identify impairment.

    I suggest that establishing a workplace drug policy that creates a positive workplace culture is the best place to start. Many will agree that a workplace drug policy is necessary because safety is paramount. To achieve a positive workplace culture both management and employees can work collaboratively to establish a policy that strikes a balance to satisfy employer workplace safety legislation without encroaching on the civil liberties of employees.

    ‘Computer-assisted performance tests, which measure hand-eye coordination and response time, are a better way of detecting whether employees are up to the job. NASA, for example, has long used task-performance tests to determine whether astronauts and pilots are unfit for work – whether the cause is substance abuse, fatigue, or physical illness.’ (American Civil Liberties Union, 1997)

    Additionally provision of an appropriate rehabilitation scheme can be incorporated into the policy. One that ensures support instead of punishment to those who infringe and want an oppurtunity to change; for example EAP and counselling, but also disciplinary action in cases where people choose not change.

    In brief establishing a workplace drug policy that creates a positive workplace culture and excludes workplace drug testing will be more likely to reduce employee resentment towards employers compared with your solution to test. Higher profits result for employers from reduced testing costs, because a positive workplace culture exists, businesses will also benefit from reduced absenteeism and turnover. Employees regain their right to privacy and finally the workplace drug policy is one that ensures workplace safety and one that everyone is accepting of.

    References
    71203 Business Ethics Module Two. (2013). Lower Hutt.NZ: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.
    American Civil Liberties Union. (1997, December 31). Retrieved January 27, 2014, from American Civil Liberties Union: https://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform_technology-and-liberty/privacy-america-workplace-drug-testing
    Desjardins, J., & Duska, R. (2001). Drug Testing in Employment. In T.L.Beauchamp & N.E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (6th ed.,pp.283-294) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
    Fox, M. (2013, July 07). Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved January 20, 2014, from Stuff.co.nz: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8887988/Workers-drug-test-numbers-skyrocket
    Gillespie, S. (n.d.). At the Heart of the Matter NZ Drug Foundation. Retrieved July 26, 2014, from NZ Drug Foundation: http://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/content/storm-pee-cup

  6. Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing is an interesting title, because it really asks the broader question – is it ethical to drug test employees?
    As an employer, employing farm staff, I feel it is my duty to keep staff, contractors, visitors and their families safe. This includes minimising risk from hazards, such as physical hazards (livestock), chemical hazards and machinery hazards, (tractors). Most of these hazards can be eliminated through farm training and ensuring the farm policies/processes are adhered too. An employee needs to keep themselves safe as well. This includes covering the basics like encouraging employees to eat and sleep well, relax on their time off and being able to feel revitalised for work. One of the biggest concerns is the dangers to others, staff and livestock, if an employee arrives at work affected by drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately it is difficult to identify a drug user. In an industry where long, labour intensive work hours are part of the territory, it can be difficult to differentiate between somebody who is overworked, tired and hungry compared to a person desperate to get their next ‘fix’.
    Your comment “it seems ironic that employee resentment for workplace drug testing (and workplace alcohol testing) runs high even among those who neither drink nor use drugs”, challenges me. I have to wonder if it is ironic when I the employer, ask for information about the employees personal life, to protect my business. Surely what my employee does outside of work is their business, yet I must be able to protect my own business too? As an employer I can ask an employee directly about their drug and alcohol uses, but it also highlights the issue of privacy. I also feel your comment “they have nothing to fear if they are clean”, is more to do with the employees concern about keeping the division/a clean line between work and home life. Privacy enables staff to keep their personal lives private. Privacy allows employees to have independence and grow their moral grounding or beliefs. Stanley Benn (1978) suggested the ethical importance of privacy lies in the freedom and control we each have over ourselves as individuals (Open Polytechnic; Business Ethics; Module 2; page 6). The ethical theories support the claim that personal identity is important. Utilitarianism sees personal identity as very important, because an individual is unlikely to increase their happiness or minimise their suffering if it is not taken into account. In Kantianism, personal identity is the part which can think rationally and make autonomous choices (to act without others looking over you). In Virtue ethics, personality is important because it can develop and express a person’s values. (Open Polytechnic; Business Ethics; Module 2; page 5).
    The individual rights of the employee must be protected as per the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Therefore, an employer may not stipulate what drugs or how much alcohol may be consumed by an employee; they can only be concerned at how the use of these items affects the employee’s behaviour in the workplace. The on-going symptoms of drug and alcohol use are hard to determine. A hangover can leave you tired, with a headache, anxious, gastrointestinal complaints, sweating, dizziness and a lack of concentration, or an ability to make informed decisions. Prescription and recreational drugs can leave the user with similar side effects.
    When considering the option of drug testing an employee, it is important to be clear about the kind of drug testing that will take place. Factors to consider are the group of employees being tested (all, a random or a specific group), the reasons why the employee is being tested (regular, random or as part of an investigation), also the type of the drug test under taken. (Open Polytechnic, Business Ethics 2013, Module 2; page 8). The frequency and type of drug testing should only be undertaken depending on the amount of risk involved in the employee’s position. When dealing with livestock, heavy machinery and irregular working hours, I believe farming can be considered a dangerous job. (In 2013, a person was killed every 3 weeks and 20,000 people were injured on farms in New Zealand). Therefore, it is morally acceptable to undertake drug testing at random intervals for farm employees. As an employer, I believe these figures highlight that it would also be ethically acceptable for drug testing to occur.
    Drug testing consists of a mouth swab, urine or hair sample. It does not test the quantity of drugs/alcohol in the system, but whether the drugs were there in the first place. If a test comes back positive, employers need to be able to work through the consequences with the employees fairly. This could be in the form of a warning, rehabilitation or other support. It is not fair for employees to assume employers are “just out to get rid of the people they don’t want working here” – as per your comments above. An employer has usually invested time and training in the current employee – it is often not beneficial to sack an employee based on one demeanour. Results from drug and alcohol testing, gives the information needed to support an employer if they are concerned about an employee’s performance. If there is a concern about the performance, this is usually being monitored anyway.
    Considering the information given, and the safety of keeping all staff members safe, I believe it is ethical to drug test employees. Employees and employers need to work together to ensure drug testing is completed in a fair and ethical manner.

    Appendix

    Too Many Dying or Injured on Farms (16/01/14) Retrieved from http://www.radionz.co.nz/newsnational on 5/02/14
    Laws on Drug Testing in the Workplace (09/07/13) Retrieved from http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace on 30 January 2014
    Davey, M. (10/01/2012).White Collar Workplace Drug Testing on the Increase. Retrieved from http://www.hrdevelopment.co.nz on 30 January 2014

    Neen.(29/01/2012) Drug Testing and Privacy. Retrieved from http://www.odt.co.nz on 12 January 2014
    Open Polytechnic; Business Ethics Course Notes, 2013

  7. nancy says:

    Your blog gives advice to employers on how to ‘overcome employee resistance to workplace alcohol and drug testing’. You claim that management should approach drug testing empathetically as advice to overcome employee ‘resentment’. You suggest that the employee arguments are ‘highly personal in nature’ and that employees view the process as an ‘unreasonable invasion into the most private aspect of their lives’.
    I am siding today with the employees to argue that the reasons for the ‘resentment’ are just. In my post I will explain why the actions of ‘drug testing in the workplace’ are morally unacceptable.

    Secondly I will look at ‘the testing’. More and more employers are requiring employees to participate in ‘drug testing’. On-site Workplace Drug Screening increased 19% in 2013. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1403/S00150/on-site-workplace-drug-screening-increases-19-in-2013.htm).
    Let me begin by addressing a very important and ethically significant ‘right’, the right to Privacy.
    In your article you mention that the arguments recorded by employees are “highly personal in nature”. Why do you think that is? Could it have anything to do with the fact that you are taking away the most basic right that every human being is entitled to?
    Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘No one shall
    be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or
    correspondence, …
    (General Assembly of the United Nations, 1948).

    All employees have a right to privacy, so does this ‘right’ include not being subjected to drug testing in the workplace?

    The right to privacy is a human right and an element of various legal traditions, which may restrain both government and private party action that threatens the privacy of individuals. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_privacy
    Drug testing threatens the privacy of individuals. All you need to do is listen to what your employees are saying, ‘They should have no right to use my body to seek evidence against me’. If your body is not your own that what is!
    Lets take a look at why privacy is important to employees and why when employees face the reality of mandatory drug and alcohol testing they often feel resentment toward their employer for being required to undergo the process.

    Stanley Benn (1978) sees individual personality as a vital part of being able to have human rights. Benn suggests that the ethical importance of privacy lies in personal freedom and control. By making drug-testing mandatory, you are taking away employees right to freedom and control.

    Even employees that don’t use drugs resent workplace drug testing. Why is this? It is not ironic, as you have suggested, rather common sense to the ethically aware. No one likes to have their ‘rights’ abused regardless of whether they ‘use’ drugs or not.

    Drug testing is a means of obtaining information. Testing gives information about activities that take place outside of work e.g. the use of drugs, legal, illegal or prescription. These activities are private.

    Many New Zealanders drink socially. Are these individuals at risk of losing their jobs when subjected to alcohol testing in the workplace? Yes, alcohol can show up in the Body for up to 10 hours after consumption. So, employees who have a ‘private’ drink could give a positive result for alcohol.
    Lets look at an example. I am enjoying a glass of white wine while relaxing in the warmth of my home. Tomorrow I go to my place of employment and I test positive for alcohol? I won’t be intoxicated, should I lose my job? A similar scenario could face a recreational drug user. They might have used cannabis on the weekend and test positive on Wednesday, but they’re not intoxicated.
    Lets look at the rationale for ‘testing’ and the employees comment this is just a way to get rid of the people they don’t want to work here any longer.
    All businesses exist to make a profit. Employees are contracted to perform to a certain level of productivity. Recently, ‘drug testing’ has been introduced to address concerns that workers that use drugs are a drain on productivity.

    Julian Buchanan, a Professor at Victoria University, doubts the benefits of workplace drug testing. Buchanan says concerns about the validity of drug tests are much broader, as current techniques only indicate a drug’s presence – not whether the person tested is actually impaired. https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/content/storm-pee-cup

    How can employers justify drug-testing employees based on their performance when the test doesn’t measure this? Also, is the employer even entitled to an employee’s maximum effort? If an employee who uses drugs has a ‘satisfactory’ level of production then the knowledge of drug is not only irrelevant but also unnecessary. Desjardins and Duska (2001).

    A United Kingdom inquiry between 2002–2004 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation into workplace drug testing concludes that there is “no justification for drug testing in the workplace as a means of policing the private behaviour of employees or of improving performance and productivity”.
    A further rationale for ‘testing’ is the safety of employees and others -.
    I agree that employees have a right to a safe workplace and that employers have a positive moral duty to secure or promote some level of safety in the workplace.

    So, are drug-testing regimes an efficient and morally acceptable means of promoting safety? Desjardins and Duska (2001) suggest that situations where testing is morally justified will probably be rare. If the information sought by the employer is not relevant there is not justification for testing. Where knowledge of drug use is relevant the knowledge must help prevent the harm and there must be a clear and present potential for harm.
    In regard to the comment those who are tested are picked randomly. Random drug testing without probable cause is unacceptable. Desjardins and Duska (2001).
    To conclude, how do we balance civil liberties, such as right to privacy, with the need for workplace safety? No single law addresses workplace drug testing. I have argued that drug testing in the workplace is an unwarranted intrusion into employee privacy and not an ethical means of promoting safety.

    References

    Desjardins, J., & Duska, R. (n.d.). Drug testing in employment. In T. L. Beaucamp & N. E. Bowie (Authors), Ethical theory and business (6th ed., pp. 283-294).

    Module 2 – Ethics and Employment Relations: The Open Polytechnic NZ – Business Ethics 71203. (n.d.). Lower Hutt, Wellington.

    UN General Assembly. (1948, December 10). Article 12 – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved January 20, 2014, from United Nations website: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1403/S00150/on-site-workplace-drug-screening-increases-19-in-2013.htm

    https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/content/storm-pee-cup

    http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1361

    http://www.arphs.govt.nz/Portals/0/Health%20Information/Alcohol%20and%20Tobacco/ARPHS%20Alcohol%20and%20Tobacco%20service/alcohol-factsheets.pdf

  8. Marie says:

    Hi Michael,
    My response below is for an assignment for a Business Ethics course.
    Thank you for your insight on this broad topic which raises a number of ethical issues which we as society or individuals are aware, if not part of, at some point in time during our working lives.
    One of these ethical issues raised is our individual rights to privacy. Privacy is about having human rights (Article 12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Benn Stanley (1978) recognised the importance of privacy in the makeup of our personalities as individuals and it provides us with the feelings of freedom and control over our own lives.

    One’s rights to privacy is violated whenever personal information about them is gathered or used by an employer in a way that is not relevant to one’s job or in violation of their employment agreement (Joseph DesJardins and Ronald Duska). Personally, I think privacy is about being able to do the things you want to do in order to live your life comfortably and happily without being judged by others.
    With this in mind, drug and alcohol testing is considered highly invasive and is perceived as breach of privacy because it provides your employer with details about your personal life and what you do outside of work.
    We can argue that employees as individuals are entitled to live their own lives when they are not at work and many of us use drugs (whether they are legal or illegal) and alcohol as part of our recreational lives outside of work. A contractual agreement between employers and employees is arranged on a mutual understanding that work is carried out by an employee in return for remuneration. Employees should not be expected to be representing the company they work for outside of business hours. However, in saying that, many companies hold social activities such as team building events or celebrations outside of the normal business hours and many include consumption of alcohol which makes me question the relevance of alcohol testing.
    Let’s say someone uses drugs and drink alcohol over the weekend for recreational purposes and they have an interview on Monday of the following week. They have not been informed of the mandatory alcohol testing as part of the recruitment process. Is it considered to be fair that they should have not participated in these activities or should be informed in advance of the testing process? Is it considered to be fair for an employer to make judgement on recruiting someone on the basis that they pass the drug and alcohol test? One may argue that it is not fair due to the following reasons.

    Firstly, substance use is carried out, outside of work and it may be a one off social event. The individual is yet to be an employee so there is no contractual agreement to be enforced so pre-testing in this instance is already breaching an individual’s privacy. Testing for drugs does not measure actual productivity according to Michael Cranford.
    Secondly, is it fair to do random tests on existing employees? Yes, I agree that random testing and making employees aware of these regulations as part of their contractual agreement is relevant. It will guide employees to be more responsible and considerate towards others and the company they work for and help them be more aware of the type of culture in the company they work in. However, random testing is still interfering with an individual’s rights to privacy in terms of outside of work activities they participated in.
    From an employer’s perspective, there are two arguments used to justify the relevance of drug and alcohol testing.
    Firstly, using of these substances claims to affect an individual’s ability to do their jobs effectively, which leads to poor productivity. This also includes the costs involved for when these employees take time off work, or if the company need to recruit for replacements of their positions.
    Job performance is person related (DesJardins & Duska). Everyone have their own skillset, qualifications and experience and it is unfair to compare the level of output of one individual with another (if they are both in the same line of work). Information gathered from drug and alcohol testing is not sufficient to pre-determine how well someone is going to perform. It does not provide accurate data about an individual’s past performance (experience) or how they will perform in the future.
    According to DesJardins & Duska, if someone’s productivity is at an expected level, knowledge of their drug use is irrelevant. If drug testing is carried out as part of a recruitment process, the employer is running a risk of not hiring the best candidate for the job, performance-wise.
    Secondly, using of these substances can also be responsible for considerable harm to one’s self, the company and others. I agree that safety is one of the critical factors in a workplace, however, I don’t believe that drugs and alcohol use is a concern if it is an ordinary day to day office job unless it affects performance to cause reduction in productivity.
    If it is a role with a higher level of responsibility for the well-being of others, such as being a teacher or a doctor where other lives are heavily relying on your expertise, then I agree that pre-testing or periodic testing should be mandatory.

    References:

    Joseph DesJardins and Ronald Duska (1987) – Business & Professional Ethics Journal 6 – Drug Testing in Employment.
    Benn, S. I (1978) Human rights – for whom and what? In E.Kamenka & A.E.S Tay (Eds), Human rights (pp . 57-73). London, England: E Arnold.
    The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (2014). Module One, 71203 Business Ethics, Lower Hutt, NZ.

  9. Nicole Reesby says:

    Nicole Reesby
    Student Open Polytechnic
    71203 Business Ethics

    I believe the drug testing in the work place is unethical.
    1. U are made under duress to sign a drug testing condition clause on your employment agreement (other wise you wont get the job).
    2. I believe its a breach of personal privacy. Is it any of my employers business as to what prescription or non prescription drugs I take in my personal time if it does not affect my work place productivity or work place health and safety.
    3. Drug testing breaches the human rights act. Therefore is unethical and against the law.
    4. There are other ways to assess safety concerns or low output that do not breach individual rights.
    5. Drug Test clauses in employment agreements make you feel like their is no trust from management.
    6. It discriminates people with drug problems.
    7. New Zealand has a strong drinking culture its a legal drug but still impacts on performance and safety but no one tests for that.
    8. Are the drug testing methods 100% accurate?
    9. If a employee fails the drug test they are fired straight away. Wheres the good faith of trying to help them with their problem.
    10. Are employers morally judging and penalizing those people with drug problems.
    11. Is testing for drug really ethical?
    12. What happens if New Zealand gets medicial cannais for those suffering for long term pain. Would that mean these people are unemployable.

    Please comment on my blogg thank you

  10. Nicole says:

    Hi Michael my response below in for a Business Ethics course I am doing which requires us to form a critical response to a blog of our choice. I haven’t read the other responses as I did not want them to influence my own thoughts so my apologies if I have repeated thoughts from others.
    I was immediately drawn to this blog when I read the title “Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing” and furthermore when I read the first sentence stating that, “employees often feel resentment towards employers when asked to undergo Alcohol and Drug testing in the workplace”, which later on went on to state “It seems ironic that employee resentment for workplace drug testing (and workplace alcohol testing) runs high, even among those who neither drink nor use drugs.
    You, like me, ask the question where does the resentment originate from and that perhaps it is based on fear. I believe fear has nothing to do with it especially from employees whom are positive they will pass the test. The issue, I believe, lies in privacy. (Desjardins & Duska, (2001) take privacy to be an “employee right” by which they mean a presumptive moral entitlement to receive certain goods or be protected from certain harms in the workplace. I believe privacy to be an individuals control over oneself and ones ability to freely choose what and how personal information is revealed and gathered.
    What employees do outside of work is there own business. An employment contract binds an individual with an organisation based on payment for work done. It by no means gives an employer control over an employee in terms of what is done outside working hours.
    More often than not social drug use in no way affects an employees performance at work. Employers and colleagues would be none the wiser of this type of activity taking place outside of work hours without a drug test. An employer’s general aim in workplace drug and alcohol testing is to prevent harm. My question is, what, if anything does this information provide for an employer. Does the knowledge that an employee may enjoy a joint after work or on the weekend have any real benefit to an employer such as preventing harm. Especially if this behaviour is not affecting their performance at work. I also ask does this knowledge warrant the invasion into ones privacy. I believe not. I am in no way an advocate for illegal drugs but let’s take marijuana as an example.
    An employer via a drug testing finds the drug in various employees systems not having suspected a thing prior to the drug test. The employees work performance is at the correct level and suppose the workplace has a strict no drugs policy. The consequences of this test can go as far as dismissal. What is the benefit to the employers to lose quality employees because of something they do out of work time and what right does the employer have invading this element of privacy.
    In terms of work performance being below the expected level and drug or alcohol abuse suspected by the employer, I still do not support testing as a means of correcting this behaviour.
    The Utilitarian ethicist proposes that the moral worth of actions should be judged by the amount of happiness or suffering they are likely to cause for all who can be affected by them, compared with the amount of happiness or suffering likely to be caused by alternative actions (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2014). I struggle to see how Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace can in simple terms produce more good (knowledge of drug use for employers) than harm (invasion of ones privacy & resentment towards employers which then in turn effects corporate culture) than alternative actions. It is often argued that the testing is used to prevent harm or promote safety (in the workplace), however it is more often than not the action taken to prevent the harm (such as removing the person from the workplace or situation) rather than the actual drug testing that removes the risk. Hypothetically speaking, say an employee shows up clearly intoxicated to work and you know immediately there is a chance they will harm themselves or others. The immediate response would be to dismiss them from work that day following further action (such as a drug & alcohol test). It is the dismissal from work that reduced the harm not the follow up Drug & Alcohol testing. An employee, drug user or not I believe has the right to keep that information to themselves on the condition that it is not affecting there work performance or productivity.
    Interestingly you state “employers view drug and alcohol testing as a natural and understandable condition on employment.” What exactly is meant by the term natural. When used in an adjective sense I assume you are referring to the term as a task that does not interfere with ones individual values and rights, something that is expected as part of everyday life/employment.
    There is no specific employment related law that deals with drug testing in the workplace (http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1361) so it would be absurd to believe that employers expected it was the “norm”.
    There are many factors that employers have to take into consideration before performing a drug and alcohol test these include:
    • The industry in which the employee works and what type of work they do
    • The potential health and safety risk
    • Privacy considerations
    • The effect on basic individual rights
    • The details of the proposed testing policy
    • The provisions of the employment agreement
    Considering employers have to jump through hoops before they can even consider doing a drug test makes it hard for me to believe that they would view it as a “natural & understandable condition of employment”. Furthermore, to say employers view drug and alcohol testing as an ‘understandable’ condition of employment would mean this discussion was non existent.
    In conclusion I believe the solution to overcoming employee resistance to workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing is not to provide an empathetic approach but to explore alternative options and use testing as a last resort. As I have mentioned there is more harm to be done in terms of invasion of privacy and employee resentment towards employers and that drug testing employees doesn’t actually achieve a whole lot for employers.

    References
    The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (2014). Quality Management. Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

    Desjardins, J., & Duska, R. (2001). Drug testing in employment. In T.L. Beauchamp & N. E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (6th ed., pp. 283-294). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1361

  11. Nicole Reesby says:

    Thank you for your article on Overcoming Employee Resistance to Workplace Alcohol and Drug Testing, I find it very interesting you say it seems ironic that employees resent workplace drug testing. I can understand why employees would and feel the same way in the fact I would not appreciate being tested for drugs in my workplace as what I do in my spare time is private and to have blood taken out of my body or supplying a urine sample for work enquiry purposes is an invasion of my body. Drug testing is an intrusive procedure and the results obtained cannot be guaranteed to be correct and what other information could my employer be getting from such a procedure that is both personal and private to me.
    I feel people have a right to their privacy and if they take drugs it is their personal choose and how it impacts on their life’s is their own personal responsibility. For example an employee could take recreational marijuana for their own pleasure /experience in their own personal time and get blood tested at work days later when the marijuana has no effect on their abilities but still traceable in their blood stream, with the impact being they could lose their job and be subjected to the employers scrutiny on something they choose to do outside of work hours and the responsibilities of their job at the time. As per article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon their honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks’ (General Assembly of the United Nations, 1948). Privacy is important and should be protected, we have a right to be left alone, more laws need to be put in place to protect our privacy in the workplace, so the standover tactics of making potential employees sign contracts agreeing to random drug tests cannot be enforced.
    To be fair I feel you should not have to even have an article like yours as drug tested should not be permitted and therefore you would not have to overcome the obstacle of employee resistance to it. I appreciate the assumption that drug testing creates a safer and more productive workplace for all involved as ‘it can be an effective deterrent when there is regular or random testing of all employees. (Dusjardins, Duska (2001) P(290). But drug testing is an invasive procedure, expensive and can be ineffective and why do it when you have the availability of less intrusive and more effective options such as dexterity tests, which can test eye-hand co-ordination, balance, reflexes and ability.
    Dexterity tests, flight stimulator tests, eye/hand coordination, balance, reflexes and reasoning ability tests can all be less intrusive more easily conducted and reliable technologies which produce instant results. (by Duska)
    If a company is worried that an employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs then they could carry out dexterity test on the spot and if the test is failed then prevent the employee from carrying on what could be potentially dangerous to others and cause productivity losses. A drug test would not be required as if the employee cannot perform their job as contractual required then the contract is ceased on the performance issue and to know if on drugs or not is obsolete.

    References:
    UN General Assembly. (1948, December 10) Article 12 – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved January 12, 2015 from United Nations website. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
    Desjardins, J., & Duska, R. (2001). Drug testing in employment. In T.L Beauchamp & N.E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (6th edition pp 283 -294). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    The Open Polytehnic of New Zealand. (2013). Module 2:Ethics and employment relations. In 71203 Business Ethics. Lower Hutt, New Zealand: Author

  12. Uls says:

    “Workplace alcohol and drug testing” What springs to mind, is it ethical? Shouldn’t employees have a right to privacy? Clearly this is an invasion of privacy, what people do in their own personal time is their business, as long as it doesn’t affect work productivity. If one is meeting their work expectations, or doing no harm to colleagues or to clients, is productive with their work than I don’t see the reason why they should be alcohol and drug tested.
    Article 12 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, or to attacks upon their honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks’ (General Assembly of the United Nations, 1948).
    Given such a contractual relationship between employer and employee, certain areas of the employee’s life remain their own private concern and no employer has a right to invade them. On these presumptions we maintain that certain information about an employee is rightfully private, i.e. the employee has the right to privacy. (Drug testing in employment, 6th ed, pg 284).
    Employees have the right to privacy, liberty and security of person. It accentuates human dignity of an individual.
    Wouldn’t it be visibly obvious if one was under the influence of alcohol, clearly dysfunctional, would you request a drug test? Employee would face serious disciplinary action.
    You mentioned “It seems ironic that employee resentment for workplace drug testing (and workplace alcohol testing) runs high, even those who neither drink nor use drugs. It isn’t ironic when you find these lab test slip-ups which contributes to employees resentment of being drug and alcohol tested. Research has proven laboratory slip-ups (Dave Kope, research), many of the mistaken test results. But even the perfect labs running perfect test will also find many false positives. Here are just a few of examples:
    False positives are caused by:
    • Nasal decongestants such as Dristan, Neosynephren, Vicks Nasal Spray, and Sudafed, which cause false positives for amphetamines.
    • Poppy seeds like those on a dinner roll, which cause false positives for opiates. Even the highest-quality test currently available, the GCMS test, still confuses poppy seeds with heroin.
    • Pain relievers such as Advil, Nuprin, Midol, Trendar, or any medicine containing Ibuprofen cause false positives for marijuana.
    Employees have been unfairly dismissed based on these results. Both employee & employers should work together to initiate a strategy to avoid these types of hiccups.
    Your comment “Those who are tested are picked randomly”. When undergoing workplace drug testing, it is important to specify the type of drug testing that will be taking place. The drugs tested for must be only those drugs use of which really is potentially harmful in that job (Open Polytechnic, Business Ethics 2014, Module 2, pg 40). Also consider the groups of employees being tested (all employees, random selection or specific group). (Open Polytechnic, Business Ethics 2013, Module 2, pg 8). Drug testing in New Zealand will be regarded as reasonable only in relation to workplaces which contains “safety sensitive areas”.
    You referred to “Everybody will undergo workplace drug testing eventually” Why would everyone in workplace be tested? Not every job-holder is equally threatening, for example if someone in accounts was high on drugs or alcohol you wouldn’t need a drug test to justify their behavior. And the effects this would have on the company are loss of productivity from this particular employee. Unlike someone with a more safety-sensitive job who either deals with dangerous chemicals, company driver, pilot who has the responsibility of people lives in their hands, I think these are the areas that should be targeted for drug & alcohol testing. God forbid an accident occurs the company may face prosecution.
    Nevertheless, I do agree that we should adhere to a safe work environment. And drug and alcohol testing can help protect both employees and employers. It has been proven that drug and alcohol testing has been effective in reducing harm and accidents in a workplace. In order to bridge the gap between both parties, employers could conduct surveys, meetings, open forums whereas employees have the opportunity to voice their opinions. Brining in trained professionals or drug agencies to hold seminars in the office about the importance and outcomes of testing in work environment, this shows employer consideration to the sensitive issue. Working together to ensure drug testing is done ethical and in a fair manner.

    Reference
    The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (2013). Module One. 71203 Business ethics. Lower Hutt, NZ: Author.

    Desjardins, J., & Duska, R. (n.d.). Drug testing in employment. In T. L. Beaucamp & N. E. Bowie (Authors), Ethical theory and business (6th ed., pp. 283-294).

    Drug Tests: http://www.davekopel.com/CJ/IP/DrugTesting.htm

    Gillespie, S. (n.d.). At the Heart of the Matter NZ Drug Foundation. Retrieved July 26, 2014, from NZ Drug Foundation: http://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/content/storm-pee-cup

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