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Drugs in the Workplace

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In many workplaces across the world, drug use has been a common phenomenon among employees. Employees abuse drugs before and when discharging their duties at the workplace (Ghodse, 2005). Drug abuse and addiction among employees can result in a number of problems, such as lost organizational productivity, injuries, absenteeism, fatalities, reduced employee morale, theft, legal liabilities, employees’ compensation costs, and increased health care among employees (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2012). Other problems that the use of drugs can cause in the workplace include drug trafficking, psychological problems, preoccupation with using drugs, and withdrawal effects, which affect job performance negatively. Therefore, organizations should employ workplace drug testing to ensure that employees are not under the influence of drugs when discharging their duties. This discussion will consider ethical and legal implications of workplace drug testing, workplace drug prevention and education programs, and the ethical implications of mandatory drug education in the workplace.

Ethical and Legal Implications of Workplace Drug Testing

Organizations use drug testing technologies, such as sweat tests and urinalysis, to confirming the status of employees (Verstraete, 2011). Employers use both mandatory and voluntary testing as the only testing programs for their workers. Mandatory drug testing requires every employee to undergo testing with or without informed consent. Voluntary testing is not applicable in most workplaces because employers need to know the status of every employee before and after recruitment. Workplace drug testing has remained a legal and ethical issue. This is due to the difficulty to balance productivity and safety requirements against the need to avoid employee discrimination and invasion of employees’ privacy. Therefore, workplace drug testing leads to contentiousness because of the collision that occurs between employers’ interests and employees’ interests. Personal dignity and liberty will clash with the questions of economic productivity and social responsibility (Verstraete, 2011). In addition, issues of data protection and reliability of test quality arise from workplace drug testing. Ethical and legal implications of drug testing include invasion of privacy, discrimination of employees, and unfair dismissal due to the use of uncertified drug tests.

The opponents of workplace drug testing consider invasion of employees’ privacy as a significant ethical issue that employers need to address (Verstraete, 2011). According to critics, employers should obtain informed consent from their employees before drug testing. However, this is not possible because employers have the responsibility to ensure that their employees or applicants do not use or abuse drugs. Therefore, employers will not recruit applicants who fail to undergo workplace drug testing. Employers can also dismiss employees who fail to abstain from drug use for the safety of other employees (Verstraete, 2011). Employees may also claim to have rights to use drugs when they are not on duty. The use of drugs during off-duty days may affect the performance of employees because of hangovers and psychological problems. Proponents of the workplace drug testing assert that invasion of privacy is not as significant as the benefits that the individuals, company, and society get from reduced substance use and abuse. Opponents consider that employers violate article twelve of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by dictating their employees’ private lives (Verstraete, 2011).

Employees may employ workplace drug testing among their employees with an aim to dismiss some employees, who belong to minority groups. Therefore, workplace drug testing has helped employers to portray discrimination, which is an ethical issue, toward employees. Some employers do not classify the users of marijuana under the same class as those employees, who use other illegal drugs like heroin (Verstraete, 2011). Therefore, the workplace drug testing targets the users of marijuana whose presence can be detectable for about three months since a person uses it. Other drugs cannot be detectable within few hours or days upon usage. Sweat tests and urinalysis may not be reliable in drug testing because they fail to test impairment among employees (Verstraete, 2011). This is because drug metabolites take many hours before appearing in urine or sweat. Thus, the use of sweat tests and urinalysis will unfairly identify some drug users and leave others, who used the drug a short while before the time of testing.

Unfair dismissal of employees is another legal and ethical issue that companies face due to the application of workplace drug testing. An employer can dismiss employees by virtue of a positive drug test for the safety of other employees and stakeholders (Verstraete, 2011). Therefore, an employer must show evidence that drug use has impaired the performance of the employee with a positive drug test. People believe that dismissal of the employees, who use drugs, will be the most appropriate measure to prevent drug related problems from occurring in the workplace. An employer may use an unreliable drug test, which will lead to unfair dismissal of employees because of false positive outcomes. It will not be a justifiable action to dismiss an employee, who does not use drugs, on the basis of false positive results (Verstraete, 2011). A test for drugs like cannabis can record unreliable results about the current usage of a drug when the employee used the drug many weeks ago. However, the use of illegal drugs, even when the employee used them many weeks ago, calls for disciplinary measures including dismissal.

Workplace Drug Prevention and Education Programs

The workplace drug prevention and education involves drug testing for workers, as well as informing the workers about the impacts of drug use in the workplace (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2012). In the United States, many companies have adopted workplace drug testing and education to improve discipline among employees. Drug education creates awareness of the effects of drug use on the performance of employees. Employees and managers will be able to recognize employees, who use drugs in the workplace, through a variety of signs. Therefore, drug education will help employers and employees prevent drug use in the workplace for increased economic productivity (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2012).

Mandatory Drug Education in the Workplace

Mandatory drug education in the workplace is a significant step toward prevention of drug use among employees. Drug education should be mandatory in both small businesses and large organizations to ensure safety of employees, as well as increased economic productivity. Employees will be able to understand various risks associated with the use of drugs within the workplace. Drug education and training should involve experienced professionals for employees and employers to develop a negative attitude toward drug use and abuse in the workplace (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2012). Drug education will create awareness among employees on the importance of conducting drug testing within the workplace. Therefore, drug education is ethical because it will ensure that employers do not dismiss their innocent employees, who use drugs without the knowledge of negative impacts. Drug education will avoid unfair dismissal of employees, as well as discrimination of employees. Another significance of drug education is to create awareness among employees and managers to recognize various signs of those employees, who use drugs or alcohol in the workplace. Some of the signs of intoxication include confusion, movement and speech deficiencies, and failure to perform duties as usual (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2012). The signs will lead to an immediate drug test to confirm the status of employees with regard to drug use and abuse.

Conclusion

The use of drugs among employees is a harmful phenomenon in any workplace. This is because of the negative impact of drugs on the performance of employees due to injuries, diseases, lack of concentration, among other problems. Drug testing techniques may help employers to determine whether an employee is performing duties under the influence of substances or not (Verstraete, 2011). However, drug testing has raised legal and ethical concerns, including unfair dismissal, discrimination, and invasion of privacy. Sweat test and urinalysis are some of the drug testing technologies that organizations employ. Mandatory drug education is a necessary step for the prevention of drug use in the workplace (McKenzie, Pinger, & Kotecki, 2012).

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