Employment Drug Test Results Often Challenged 

Employment Drug Test Results Often Challenged 
Posted by FoM on August 10, 2001 at 22:01:21 PT
By Karin Schill Rives
Source: Augusta Chronicle
Three days after landing his dream job at a Durham, N.C., technology company, Davey Burroughs was escorted off its property in disgrace. A drug test, the kind now used by 67 percent of large U.S. companies to screen employees, had revealed traces of cocaine in his urine. Burroughs, 35, was shocked. ''I told them it's not possible, because I'm not a user,'' he said. ''But the doctor said there was no way it could show a false positive, and that I must have either smoked or inhaled it. It was an absolute horror.'' 
Most drug tests in American work places are uneventful, a routine matter for workers and their employers. But more employees such as Burroughs are challenging the results of drug tests, insisting that errors and sloppy practices in the largely unregulated drug-testing industry are costing them their jobs.Determined to clear his name, Burroughs bought a test kit at a pharmacy and took it to the Durham clinic that had tested him. Concentra, the health-care company that owns the clinic, agreed to conduct a second test - this time on a hair follicle. It came back negative.Two weeks after he was fired, Burroughs was reinstated as a technician at ExceLight Communications, vindicated with back pay and - he said - an apology from his boss. Bill Clark, human-resource manager for the fiber-optic cable company, said the company took Burroughs' work history into consideration when it decided to give him the job back.Burroughs had been an ExceLight employee for several years and then worked as a temporary worker while in school before he was re-hired earlier this summer. He had no known history of drug abuse.Only 4.5 percent of tests conducted at large U.S. corporations come back positive today, down from more than 18 percent in the late 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency claims the decline shows the success of corporate anti-drug policies.But it also should be noted today's workers are more likely to fight back if a drug test comes back positive. Last month, a jury awarded a dismissed Delta Air Lines flight attendant in Oregon $400,000 in damages after a laboratory incorrectly reported that she had cheated on a drug test.Revelations of practices at the lab, which surfaced before the trial began, prompted the federal government last fall to launch an investigation into 56 laboratories that validate drug tests on 1.7 million federal employees and 8.3 million workers at airlines, trucking firms and other companies regulated by the government. The audit of 13 million specimens found 300 test results that were incorrect and had to be reversed.''There is a human factor, and wherever humans are involved, mistakes can happen,'' said Travis Payne, an employment lawyer who advises police officers, firefighters and other public-sector employees about drug testing.He tells clients who are called in to submit urine samples to immediately go out and pay for a separate test. That way, they have a better chance at challenging their dismissal in case a test shows a false positive for drugs.But workers in the private sector are far less protected by law or by practice.Concentra, which used a separate lab that it owns in Memphis, Tenn., to validate Burroughs' drug test last month, stands by its results, claiming two different readings does not necessarily mean either was wrong.. The two tests cover different time periods; it's possible, at least in theory, that a hair test wouldn't show recent drug use.''We're extremely careful in our collections and certainly at the lab,'' said John Berry of the Dallas health-care company. ''I'm very confident the testing was done correctly.'' But he also acknowledged that once in a while, a case will raise questions.''A lot of time, people say that they haven't taken drugs and then they just quietly go away,'' Berry said. ''And then occasionally you see someone fight it hard, and it kind of makes you wonder.''Although drug tests are an accepted practice at many workplaces today, some employees nonetheless view them as an invasion of privacy.''From a civil liberties standpoint, it always seemed questionable to test people for drugs that aren't affecting their work performance,'' said Dr. Cynthia Kuhn, a professor of pharmacology at Duke University Medical School and co-author of ''Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs From Alcohol to Ecstasy'' (W.W. Norton, 1998, $14.95).''Although drugs are illegal and it means a person may have a serious life problem, if (they) smoke crack on a Saturday, there's no reason to think they couldn't do their work Monday,'' she said.Some use such arguments to peddle products that help rebellious employees beat the system.Today you can order clean urine, detoxification tablets and much more over the Internet. Web sites such as -- -- and -- -- offer products they promise will help drug-using workers escape detection.Kuhn said the availability of such products might have contributed to the drop in positive test results. But she also said that a good analysis of drug tests will detect attempts to tamper with a sample.Pam Sherry, a spokeswoman for Laboratory Corporation of America, one of the largest drug-testing labs in the country, said her company finds a small number of samples every year that have been tampered with. There are also cases in which the drug tests can't be analyzed, for instance if a patient drank large amounts of water before being tested and the urine became too diluted, she said.Source: Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)Author: Karin Schill RivesPublished: Saturday, August 11, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Augusta ChronicleContact: letters augustachronicle.comWebsite: Drug Testing Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #23 posted by CongressmanSuet on August 13, 2001 at 20:28:16 PT
Patrick , that was so funny....
  I think I just peed myself!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #22 posted by Doug on August 12, 2001 at 09:53:22 PT
Cooking Frogs
What lookinside is talking about is a common operation used to prevent us from rebelling. The analogy is to cooking frogs. You don't dump a live frog into a pot of boiling water, because he'd jump out. What you do is put the frog in some cool water and then turn on the heat; the water gets slowly warmer but the frog never realizes that it's too hot, until he's cooked. This happens in all sorts of cases in society: Police state, what police state?No frogs were harmed in the creation of this metaphor.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #21 posted by kaptinemo on August 12, 2001 at 07:55:04 PT:
That's what LookInside was describing; the oh-so-slow, gentle, feather-soft and gradual stripping of your Constitutional rights. And the (so far successful) attempt to reduce the working class to pre-1900 levels of economic serfdom. All accompanied by the concommittant weakening of the ability of unions to make a positive impact by standing up to corporate bullying and reducing worker safety standards to the half-jokes they are today.Used to be that unions and corporations were polar opposites; unions stood up for workers, and corporations did their best to screw those workers. Now, it seems, that unions have jumped into bed with the people doing the screwing.Not too long ago, an article in CNews pointed out that it's usually the working poor who can face almost universal testing. The higher up you go on the economic ladder, the less likely you are to be tested. For example, if random testing were seriously implemented amongst IT workers, the companies using their talents would collapse. Why? Because they'd lose at least a third of their workforce. And the company so foolish as to be the first to try this would crumble to dust almost overnight if they insisted upon 'treatment or firing' programs.A fact that IT based companies know all too well. And other corporations may learn to their distaste. Because, as the economy takes a downturn, employers may think (as they rub their hands with glee at the prospect) that they'll have all the cheap 'drug-free' labor they want. What they forget is that the drug tests focus primarly upon cannabis users, because of the staying power of metabolites. So the cocaine user and the heroin user and the meth user will get the jobs, because those drugs are metaboloized quickly and flushed more effectively.And those users will bring their problems with them to the jobsite. Just as the stupid testers were trying to prevent. Absenteeism will be the least of their problems.The antis have created another ticking time bomb set to blow up and cause even more damage than what they anticipated as being 'acceptable' to achieve their Quixotic quest. Because, ultimately, the economy is still dependant upon flesh & blood workers. Lock them out because of drug testing, and the recession will stretch on and on and on...I remember the economic doldrums of the 1970's and how long they lasted. If corporations don't want another lesson in history repeating itself, then they better wise up and back off.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #20 posted by dddd on August 11, 2001 at 23:13:38 PT
...That was superb and outstanding!...dddd
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #19 posted by lookinside on August 11, 2001 at 22:50:37 PT:
when i started in my trade(heavy construction), drugs andalcohol were and jays after work on thejobsite was a daily experience, even with the older hands...  the contractors didn't give a D***, as long as the jobwas getting done...  accidents, and some ill conceived lawsuits forced thecontractors to take an increasingly hard line against drugsand alcohol on the job...  now, nearly all large contractors in my area havepre-employment drug testing(from zero 8 years ago)...thishas created employee loyalty, as once a worker is hired, heis not tested again unless he is directly involved in anaccident... this happened fairly rapidly, but not instantly ...the drugtesting increased at a rate that just barely avoided astrike...during this same period, wage levels increased at arate far above any in previous periods...the contractorsbecame much easier to negotiate with, because unionagreement to drug testing was a BIG concession...(no strikesin 11 years)privately, many members still decry this intrusion, but themoney is just too good to walk away guess is, if EVERYONE were tested without warning in oneof these companies,(on a monday morning, for instance) theywould find that drug use has diminished very hasjust become more discreet...the point is, these pro drug testing people had some verygood advice...they put these policies in place slowly...nowpeeing in a bottle is accepted as part of taking a new job...our sense of outrage was muted, because we could always goto a non testing, that is no longer arealistic option...only a few small(and poor) companiesdon't test...this is a lesson that can be carried over to manyareas...(income taxes, anyone? how about civil rights?)people adapt, and the younger generation have no way to seefirsthand how things have degraded in the last 30,50 or 70years...our sense of outrage is muted by our adaptability...bigbrother will not beat down the front door... he will sneakin the back, politely introduce himself, and make himself athome...and then slowly start calling the shots(for our owngood...)i've tried to instill a sense of outrage in mychildren...i've raised them to be good citizens, with a gooddose of cynicism toward authority...they know that thegovernment lies...they know that not everything in print istrue...they know that cops are worthy of fear, but notrespect...outrage great enough to turn the tide will come if we caninform and educate a large enough segment of the populationto recognize when their toes are being stomped onDELIBERATELY...our best hope is the current president...he's pushing alotof stuff down our throats very quickly...hopefully enoughpeople will experience "outrage" to force change here in the"land of the free"..."reality": thanks for sharing about having to pay for yourown drug test...that IS outrageous...i get payed for thetime it takes to go through pre-employment drug testing...asshould you...i hope you find work that allows you somedignity...i think that temp agency deserves all the pee wecan generate, in the owner's office...(thanks for the idea,Patrick...i may run with it!)
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #18 posted by dddd on August 11, 2001 at 17:23:51 PT
The Ultimate Outrage
Excellent points in your comment Doug......What really made me gasp though,,was reality telling ofthe cost of the drug test being deducted from his first check!!!WHAT!!??#*&% %$#?dddd
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #17 posted by reality on August 11, 2001 at 13:52:38 PT:
what is going on
I got laid off several months ago and as part of drawing unemployment you have to apply to two places every week. Anyway I went to a temporary agency that wants you to work for $* an hour with no benefits and you sign an agreement that you can be terminated at will. Anyway they want the employee to pay $25 for the drug test out of his first check. It has all gone way to far. There is an excellent article today August 11th at about how they say G.O.D. is running the world. That is gold, oil, and drugs. It talks about politicians being supported by illegal drug money and talks about a Bush/Cheney connection to drug money. There are some of us strongly in support of legalization of MJ and most people are just somewhat apethetic as they are about most things. The only ones really hell bent on not legalizing MJ are the Warshington politicians. And what is there reasoning. I mean it used to be legal until 1937. The money is corrupting the system. It surely isn't pragmatism. The thought of freedom is absent from the idea also.ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE GRASS A CHANCE. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #16 posted by Charlie on August 11, 2001 at 13:41:40 PT
Funny how congress and their support personnel feel they are above the rest of us and are not required to take wiz quizzes. Not funny really. Let's make them pee in a cup for their constituents. Bast*rds.I recently read a thing about congress not paying into SS and getting the equivalent of their salaries as a retirement package. Not sure how long one would need to serve to be eligible but 1 term wouldn't surprise me...true?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #15 posted by Doug on August 11, 2001 at 13:33:46 PT
What a Bizarre "Culture"
I wonder if the fact that people are not more outraged about urine testing indicates that they have been convinced that there really is a need for this, or are they just so beaten down that they don't dare protest. In either case it doesn't speak highly for American culture.When seen with any kind of historical prospective, urine testing is an obscene joke that should disgust everyone. The fact that many people have to give samples of their private bodily fluids in order to participate in common activities is so far from civilized norms that it should cause immediate revulsion. And when seen on a symbolic level, this activity should give rise to no end of analytic papers in the future. It is a metaphor for the ultimate totalitarian state, and urine tests shows in stark relief the extreme desperation of the War on Drugs. This activity should indicate to everyone how low this country has fallen.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by mayan on August 11, 2001 at 12:53:51 PT
Drug Testing Is Wrong!
Now people are doing drugs like methamphetamine,ecstasy,oxycontin & who knows what else. Unlike marijuana,which stays in your system for over a month, these drugs are undetectable in a matter of days.Kids who want to participate in extracurricular activities are not smoking pot, but instead taking these dangerous drugs & sometimes dying! Hey, they were lied to about marijuana, why would they believe anything else that the D.A.R.E officer says? NICE JOB, YOU IGNORANT ANTIS! ! ! 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by Patrick on August 11, 2001 at 09:27:52 PT
Once upon a pee.
Once upon a pee. There was a big overbearing monster in a white lab coat. He said, no pee no job. Having the dire need to feed my family, I regretfully tinkled in his plastic cup. Lo and behold, he claimed, "I have found evil substances in your urine and you may not work here," he said. Alas, I was at the end of my financial rope. All of the well paying jobs in the land required a sample of my yellow waste stream. Lost and distraught it seemed there was no work for me. I thought that maybe a position digging ditches would not require pee in a cup? But no, operating a hand shovel was also considered machinery and dangerous enough to require a pee. I then drifted to Warshington DC and made a living asking people if they had any change or could spare a dollar. This was fruitful work, for people seemed very generous. This money was all I needed to remain in the city and spend my days and nights on the street freely peeing on the Warshington monument. I also peed on the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. I even took a tour of the capitol buildings and gave the government free samples of my pee everywhere I went. I peed on their carpet, and in their planters. I even peed on a senators leg. I met others like me who also gave the government samples of pee. And we all peed happily ever after.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by lookinside on August 11, 2001 at 08:30:54 PT:
i don't...
make taking my pee pleasant for those who take thesamples...i have several stories about jobs i've held thattend to make them gag while processing the (always clean)sample...the trade i'm in almost universally requires pee tests...ifi don't pee, i don't work...but i try to fight back as i can...i believe, as more people become vocally opposed to thisheinous practice, the drug testing industry will try tojustify itself, and make errors which will be actionable incourt...costing companies millions...and discreditthemselves out of existence...the sooner, the better...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by JSM on August 11, 2001 at 08:08:39 PT
Urine testing
Just for the sake of discussion, let's say Canada decides to legalize cannabis. Now, if I traveling in Canada and decide to smoke a few, then return to the states where I test positive for THC, can my employer then discharge me?The lawsuit potential here is enormous.  Go Canada!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by billos on August 11, 2001 at 07:26:38 PT:
I hope you never apply for any kind of job in Connecticut USA. 99% of employers drug test all applicants.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by sm247 on August 11, 2001 at 06:52:41 PT
Pee petition ???
I had stared doing a "survey" of my fellow employees (roughly 100 ) so far no one agrees with workplace testing. Most say what you doon your time is "your business"   Maybe a state with a voter initiative will get a petition going to stop this breech of the 4th Ammendment.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by dddd on August 11, 2001 at 05:48:29 PT
Offspring sez..." Canada is a democracy just like what the USA used to be."...I gotta agree...dddd
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by The Offspring on August 11, 2001 at 05:27:45 PT
Drug Testing is Unconstitutional
The reason why Canada does not have many drug testing companies is because the Courts are alot better in Canada. It is against the law to test someone for anything in their system. Canada is a democracy just like what the USA used to be.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by Anonymous on August 11, 2001 at 05:04:47 PT
More on drug testing....
Hit up this link for an article on how drug testing is on the decline: that Texas-based employer EDS doesn't bother asking its Canadian and European employees to take a drug test - EDS knows they won't stand for it. Here in the Land of The Pee, however, the mice happily acquiesce to gettheir piece of cheese. 
Drug Testing Losing Favor With Employers
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Anonymous on August 11, 2001 at 04:55:01 PT
I really think...
...articles such as this try to overstate the prevalence of drug testing in the private sector. I've never had to pee in a cup for a job, nor would I work for an employer who asked me to.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Rambler on August 11, 2001 at 04:29:50 PT
It's always hard to believe that this drug testing thing continues to exsist!The question is,will it end soon?''We're extremely careful in our collections and certainly at the lab,'' said John Berry of the Dallas health-care company."A Dallas "health-care company" huh.  Drug testing will end about the same time that you can get a federally funded abortion at Home Depot,and oil companies donate 90% of their profits to charity.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 11, 2001 at 04:08:04 PT:
Testing a Bad Policy
"Although drug tests are an accepted practice at many workplaces today"Accepted by whom? That this erosion of civil of civil liberties is accepted by anyone is itself a compelling argument against the War on Drugs? Unreasonable search and seizure, and due process used to mean something. Remember? We need a wholesale turnover of politicians to right these terrible wrongs. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by E. Johnson on August 10, 2001 at 23:15:26 PT
Scientifically shaky reasoning
Ostensibly by spending all of this money on urine testing, they are recovering the reputed billions of dollars of lost productivity due to people smoking marijuana in their private lives when not at work.Okay, so show us where that recovered money exists now, in the economy? Where are the dramatic gains in productivity we were ledt to believe that violating the genito-urinary privacy of working people would bring to us?I have not heard a single economist speak of the the drug testing dividend that's fueling the economy. I have not seen one article by a major economist adding up the dollars we now have that we did not have before because of the workplace productivity gained by having employers gain access to the private regions of their employees' bodies and lives.Quite the opposite. When scientists have studied workplace drug testing, they have concluded that the bottom line shows that it is of dubious economic value.This proves that the original economic rationale presented for workplace drug testing was a fiction, a sham, a scam, a rotten mendacious bill of goods we have been sold here.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by legalizeit on August 10, 2001 at 22:17:26 PT
Ha! there you go
>the company took Burroughs' work history into consideration when it decided to give him the job back.End of discussion! If a person has a good work history and previous bosses, etc. give good referrals, it should be none of their damn business what a person uses in his spare time.It's time to get those stuffy justices out of the Supreme Court and get some in there that would declare this crap a direct violation of the 4th Amendment.Oops, forgot... the 4th Amendment doesn't exist anymore.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment