Pre-Employment Drug Screening On the Decline

Pre-Employment Drug Screening On the Decline
Posted by FoM on November 24, 1999 at 18:31:35 PT
By David Armstrong, Fox Market Wire
Source: Fox Market Wire
When the Silicon Alley company Doubleclick was developing its human resource policies, it discovered that something was missing from the policies of similar Internet startups  mandatory drug testing. 
Similarly, Jeff Mease, the CEO of One World Enterprises, a restaurant management business based in Bloomington, Ind., decided not to screen any of his 250 employees for drug use. Mease said that, in part, he was not interested in delving into their private lives. "For the most part, drug tests are not impairment tests, they are lifestyle tests," Mease said. "My sense is there is no concrete evidence out there that you lose productivity. But when you put those kind of draconian measures in place, you pay the price of loyalty." There is yet no avalanche of companies abandoning drug testing as part of their employee screening process. But as older companies reevaluate their hiring policies and newer companies develop theirs, the trend is away from invasive, privacy-robbing drug tests, which recent scientific studies now suggest have been more symbolic than effective all along. "There is little evidence in favor of drug tests," said Ted Shepard, an economics professor at Le Moyne College in New York State who has studied productivity levels among companies that screen employees for drugs. "There seems to be a large discrepancy between the claims that were made in favor of drug testing and the research." A Reagan-Era Legacy: Drug testing in the workplace really took off in 1986, when President Ronald Reagan issued an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to institute urine testing programs to create a drug-free federal workplace. At the time, only 21.5 percent of private companies tested their employees for illicit drugs. Percentage of companies that test either applicants, employees or both: 1991 63% 1992 73% 1993 78% 1994 76% 1995 78% 1996 81% 1997 74% 1998 74% 1999 70% Source: American Management Association: With drug testing high on the federal agenda, however, that number skyrocketed. In 1996, over 80 percent of private companies performed either pre-employment screening or random tests, according to the American Management Association. But while the fear of losing productivity was the most oft-cited reason for the tests, there was never a cost-effective analysis or any evidence to suggest that screening for illicit substances among employees had a positive effect on a company's bottom line. "The data does not allow us to make that case," said Eric Greenberg, the director of management studies for the AMA. In fact, the only credible study on the merits of drug testing was undertaken in 1994 by the National Academy of Sciences and sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study found no connection between casual employee drug use and on-the-job performance. "The preventive effects of drug testing programs have never been adequately demonstrated," the NAS study concluded. "There is as yet no conclusive scientific evidence from properly controlled studies that employment drug testing programs widely discourage drug use or encourage rehabilitation." The NAS study also said there was no indication that employee drug use was responsible for increased accidents in the workplace. "It really is a case of the emperor doesn't have any clothes," said Lewis Maltby, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Task Force on Civil Liberties in the Workplace. "But the data speaks for itself. When you take all of the credible evidence, it paints a completely different picture." A Morale Downer: In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that drug testing actually has a detrimental effect on worker performance. At Le Moyne College, Shepard and his colleague Thomas Clifton recently conducted a study looking at a number of high-tech firms in Silicon Valley, both those that screened employees for drugs and those that did not. The researchers found that in those companies where pre-employment drug testing took place, productivity was 16 percent lower than in companies where there was no drug testing. In companies which performed both pre-employment and random testing of employees, productivity was actually 29 percent lower. Shepard said there were a couple of reasons why this was the case. It could be that companies with already low production levels decided to institute drug testing to boost their employees performance. Or, it could reflect that employees were less dedicated to jobs where they were treated with a veil of suspicion, he said. "Numerous studies have shown companies that treat workers in a progressive way create greater loyalty in return," he said. So why would companies continue screening applicants and employees for drugs when the evidence suggests it doesn't help the bottom line? "I think part of the answer is they have been given bad information," Shepard said, adding that "shoddy science" has been used to justify claims that drug use among employees has a negative effect on workplace productivity. "The drug testing companies make exaggerated claims," he said. Combine the bad information with a federal government push to ensure a drug free workplace, "and there is a kind of bandwagon effect." The Trend Shifts: If testing employees for illicit drug use was all the rage in the nineties, there is evidence the practice is on the decline. Since 1996, the number of companies screening either applicants or employees for drugs dropped from 81 percent to 70 percent, according to the AMA. Part of the reason is the experience of the past decade or so, experience that has taught that expensive and cumbersome drug screening and testing adds little to a company's bottom line. But on the verge of a new century, it is also clear that a more trusting, hopeful attitude is pervading the workplace. "You're creating a breach of faith between the employee and the employer," said One World Enterprises' Jeff Mease.  1999, News America Digital Publishing, Inc. Related Articles:ACLU Tries New Tact On Drug Testing - 11/15/99 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 #2 posted by Chad on April 07, 2001 at 15:54:50 PT
drug testing
What people do in their own homes are there own business, this is a invasion of privacy whats next tests on when you last had sex and if it was kinky or not? People and People of power need to seperate work and lives keep work at work and home or personal life at home. We are not middle ages were the need to control your every moment of existence is nessary for noble people to attain their immediate goals. My advise is to relax and let others do what they want without trying to exert control over others. This is sick and bielive that we need some politicians and CEO of big companies to come around and realize that there is a standard line that should not be crossed, and that is leave people to their personal business, do not drug test.B.B.A Chad
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Comment #1 posted by Sledhead on November 25, 1999 at 06:41:31 PT
Finally...The Facts 
It's about time companies are realizing they've been had by the "Urine Lobby". This is the biggest scam yet by the "anti-drug cartel" & no telling how many of the most vocal drug warrior politicians have lined their pockets with the proceeds. I've been following this for a long time & you only need to read the transcripts from the Drug Testing Advisory Board, a psuedo-government committee of piss testing hacks who actually decide government policy, to see how inaccurate these tests are and what a scam this industry has created. They've hid this from the people, but the facts are beginning to emerge. If you want to take the time to learn what drug testing is really about, check out the transcripts & related info at the following web site.Sledhead
Drug Testing Clearinghouse
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