New Random Drug-Testing Policy Under Fire

New Random Drug-Testing Policy Under Fire
Posted by FoM on July 04, 2000 at 09:17:51 PT
By Jennifer Giustino, Special To The Tribune 
Source: Chicago Tribune
Cicero's new policy that subjects all public employees to random drug testing is raising concerns about whether the policy is legal, or even reliable."We believe across-the-board drug testing for public employees is unconstitutional." said American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Ed Yohnka. "We think a clerk or an administrative person does not demonstrate a reasonable relationship to public safety and that subjecting these people to drug testing is unwarranted and unnecessary."
Under the new policy, an employee who tests positive for drug use will be put on probation and required to seek professional help. An employee who tests positive a second time will face due process that could result in termination.Yohnka said testing those who do not perform public-safety related tasks is an invasion of privacy. He also said the policy, which takes effect this week, relies on the use of unreliable hair-sample tests."Hair tests are inefficient," Yohnka said. "They can be influenced by environmental factors. ... Additionally, there is research that demonstrates such tests may have a racial bias."Though drug testing using hair samples has been done for decades, its accuracy has been in dispute. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration have characterized such tests as unreliable.And some experts say testing hair samples is racially biased because false positive results occur more often when sampling coarse hair from blacks, Latinos or Asians than from light or fine hair.Dr. Peter Orris, the director of the Occupational Health Services Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health, agreed that hair testing can be flawed. He said urine tests are more reliable."Hair analysis does not tell you how long ago the person may have used a drug," Orris said. "This type of testing is variable and can often depend on how quickly a person's hair grows. The other reason there are flaws with this type of testing is because hair analysis is not quantitative. It might be that a person was sitting in a room with people who were smoking marijuana and that can put it in the hair."But Cicero Town Atty. Barry Pechter said physicians he and other town officials contacted favor the hair tests over urine tests."All of our research indicates that hair testing is far more sophisticated and far less likely to be altered" than urine tests, he said. "They sell all kinds of stuff to alter urine. Doctors tell me hair-follicle testing is the way to go, and that it's virtually 100 percent."Pechter also defended the town's decision to subject all municipal employees to the random tests."A lot of this reason for the policy stemmed from people who drive vehicles," Pechter said. "The janitor might run out to Home Depot and buy supplies, the secretary might drive out to pick up supplies, even in the legal department we sometimes drive a town car to court. The cashier is responsible for the citizens' money. Do you want someone who is addicted to cocaine handling the taxpayers' money?"Prior to the policy, Cicero conducted voluntary testing of its employees. Pechter said the new mandate was created so employees understand there will be ramifications if they test positive for drugs or alcohol, and so that no employee can claim he or she was unaware the policy existed.Employees are being informed of the new policy when they pick up their paychecks this week.Published: July 4, 2000Copyright: Chicago Tribune Company A.C.L.U. Drug Testing Archives:
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Comment #2 posted by Trina Shead on February 04, 2001 at 08:07:56 PT:
use of hair samples for drug testing
I believe drug testing is an invasion of privacy. I feel as long as you don't show up to work under the influence, and do your job correctly, and accurately. Your life outside your work should be no one's business but your own, and until people start standing up for themselves this will only get worse. Trina
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Comment #1 posted by legalizeit on July 05, 2000 at 00:10:09 PT
First Cicero, then everybody - byebye civil rights
Now, Cicero starts this crap. Next thing we know every hamlet in the Midwest will be copying it. Next, big cities will be doing it, then state governments, then feds. (of course, with the exception of the bureaucratic goons who think tripe like this is good legislation.)Then, of course, it will spill over into the private sector in the form of a Federal law mandating random drug testing for everyone with a Social Security number. Much like jury duty now, when your number comes up... POW! Go down to your friendly drug-testing clinic for a test.What a country. I'm beginning to doubt what we celebrate Independence Day for - we declared our independence from an authoritarian, heavy-handed government... then created our own!
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