ACLU Tries New Tact On Drug Testing 

ACLU Tries New Tact On Drug Testing 
Posted by FoM on November 15, 1999 at 07:03:43 PT
By Daniel S. Levine
Source: San Francisco Examiner 
THE American Civil Liberties Union, long opposed to workplace drug testing as an invasion of privacy, is taking a new tact to curb employers' compulsion to collect their workers' urine. 
Rather than make a high-minded appeal to their sense of fairness and justice, it instead is simply telling them they are flushing their money down the toilet. Proponents of workplace drug testing like to justify it by saying concerns of safety and productivity trump issues of privacy, but it is fraught with problems. Because testing screens for residue from illegal drugs, it doesn't test for impairment on the job. That should be employers' real concern - not what their employee may have done during the weekend. The result is that employers often end up policing and punishing employees for behavior that is private and occurs away from the workplace. In addition, it can reveal confidential information about employees' health and medical conditions to which employers have no right. Such arguments have not slowed the growth of drug testing. Some 81 percent of major U.S. corporations test for drugs, according to a 1996 study from the American Management Association. Tens of millions of employees are now subjected to pre-employment testing or must agree to it under the threat of losing their jobs. But few employers actually examine if their investment in drug testing is worthwhile. The management association found that fewer than 10 percent of its members with drug testing programs have ever conducted a cost benefit analysis. Instead, the ACLU contends, they have relied largely on "junk science" and information mostly provided by the drug testing industry. Building on a body of unbiased scientific research, much of which comes from a 1994 review by the National Academy of Science, the ACLU issued a 27-page report in September called "Drug Testing: A Bad Investment." The organization distributed the report to CEOs, union officials and human resources professionals, urging them to consider less intrusive alternatives to urine testing. "Much of the information that has thus far been made available to employers is not helpful. Most of it is fragmented and superficial," said Lewis L. Maltby, director of the ACLU National Task Force on Civil Liberties in the Workplace. "Even worse, it is one-sided: Almost everyone speaking to employers about what to do about employee drug use comes from the drug testing industry." The ACLU contends the major research contradicts the claims of drug testing promoters. Among those findings was that drug testing is not cost effective. As an example, it cited a 1990 study that found the federal government conducted drug tests on 29,000 workers in 38 agencies at a cost of $11.7 million. Those tests yielded 153 positives or .5 percent - making the cost to find one drug user $77,000. Drug testing promoters like to make the case that employers could risk legal liability if a drug-using worker injures someone and the employer failed to take adequate steps to detect the drug use. The ACLU notes that while no court has ever held an employer legally liable for not having a drug test, employers continue to rack up hefty legal bill defending their drug tests in cases involving wrongful termination. The study also attacked long-standing statistics thrown around by the testing industry. Studies have claimed that businesses suffer as much as $100 billion in lost productivity each year. But the report found these claims were made on vague comparisons of household drug use and income with no analysis of actual productivity data. In fact, there are indications that drug testing itself is harmful to productivity. The report notes a recent study of 63 high-technology companies that showed that firms with pre-employment drug testing scored 16 percent below the productivity of firms with no drug testing. Those with both pre-employment and random drug testing scored 29 percent lower. The authors of that study suggested drug testing implied a lack of trust that prevented these companies from getting their best efforts out of employees. "Drug testing fails to deliver on any of its promises. It is not a very effective deterrent to drug use, and is especially unlikely to deter workers with serious drug problems," said the ACLU report. "Drug testing detects some drug users, but mainly it detects occasional marijuana users, not drug abusers. In fact, since drug use is such a poor predictor of work behavior, drug tests have the potential to screen out as many good workers as bad workers." The ACLU suggests employers consider more cost-effective alternatives that do not raise the same concerns of privacy and fairness. This includes using computer assisted impairment tests that measure an employees' hand-eye coordination and reflexes in safety-sensitive jobs, expansion of employee assistance programs to better address substance abuse and more stringent reference checking before hiring. "We have always believed drug testing unimpaired workers stands the presumption of innocence on its head, and violates the most fundamental privacy rights," said Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Now we know that sacrificing these rights serves no legitimate purpose either." DANIEL S. LEVINENov. 14, 1999 1999 San Francisco Examiner Related Articles:Drug Testing Takes a Hit - 11/05/99 Czar Nullifies Need For Drug Test - 11/04/99 ACLU Report Debunks Workplace Urine Testing - 9/14/99
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Comment #1 posted by observer on November 15, 1999 at 08:29:39 PT
few employers examine if this investment pays...
> But few employers actually examine if their investment in drug testing is worthwhile.Why? Because, for many American employers, it is a religious issue. They believe that "using drugs is just wrong". They believe! Oh what supreme faith they place in their judgements and punishments! They believe that "using drugs" (especially marijuana) is a "sin". This is why, for many hard-core prohibitionists, no amount of truth, logic, facts or argument will ever do: because they "just know" that "using drugs" is sinful. It is a religious issue. Since the Bible tell us that "the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost" (1Cor 6:19), they somehow convert this to mean then *they* can imprision, steal, kill and destroy *your* temple (i.e. body). They argue (with God-like vengeance 1Cor 3:17) that since you *might* hurt yourself, that (for the sake of "our children"), they should *definitely* hurt you! Few, if any, of such hard-core prohibitionists are capable of listening to reason; they need a scapegoat for the target of their great righteous indignation, and the drug user (well, users of drugs that politicians have made illegal in the 1900s at least: *those* evil drugs) are convenient and politically correct targets for their plentiful hate. Richard Miler writes,``As an advocate of drug law reform, I give public presentations. In one instance a group of Quakers continually heckled me, their faces twisted like gargoyles as they shouted their hatred. When I noted that the law permitted someone with a marijuana cigarette to be imprisoned for life, one Friend yelled in fury that if such was the law, then it must be enforced -- this from a member of a sect famed for its resistance to inhumane law. Another Friend angrily insisted that if drug users denied they were sick, they should be restrained and forced to undergo psychotherapy until cured -- this from a lesbian who might easily be targeted for similar treatment because of her sexual identity. As I watched an assembly of pacifist social activists congeal into a mob with its anger directed at me, I did not feel I was part of a trendy and popular movement.I did feel I was witnessing a result of years of continual hate propaganda. Without such vilification, the war on drug users would be impossible, because citizens would recoil from persecuting people no different from themselves. Drug war propagandists serve the same function that Nazi propagandists served, a function judged harshly at Nuremberg.'' -- Richard L Miller, Drug Warriors and their Prey, 1996, pg. 32, some prohibitionists are still able to listen to reason, so one should not become discouraged. Remind hard-core prohibitionists that they send people to jail for things that were not a crime until just this century! Remind them that Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) used mandrakes! (Gen 30:14-16) (Mandrakes have been described as "narcotic" and contain hallucinogenic alkaloids. Do they call Jacob a junkie?)
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