Improving Drug Testing for Federal Employees

Improving Drug Testing for Federal Employees

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In an effort to make drug testing for employees of the federal government more accurate, to deter false positives and false negatives it has been suggested to use alternative methods of testing. The Associated Press reported a movement by the federal government to "overhaul its employee drug testing program". (TAP, pg 1) Currently, the government tests its employees during the pre-employment selection and when accidents
occur on the job. Both instances use urine testing and this particular test in not 99.99% guaranteed to show true results; when the drug was consumed or how much is currently in the employees system. The federal government is looking to lower cost and also prevent persons who are tested from being able to use the "cheat" (TAP, pg 1) method. Diluting the sample obtained, refusing the test and other methods are commonly used by employees to deter the true results of the test. They explained "even though employees can be tested at any time the instances of the tests are generated by the severity of the position the employee holds". (TAP, pg 2) Federal employees may be working at a site requiring hard hats and maneuvering heavy machinery or are behind a desk crunching numbers; the decision to test the individual is derived from upper management.
The main focus for the federal governments revamping of drug screening to be able to better determine the timeframe in which the drugs were used and the accuracy of the test. Also, the idea of the new test is to deter workers from finding ways around testing positive and also to stop the inaccuracies of falsely discrediting workers. As they explain with "testing workers' hair, saliva and sweat, testers are able to draw more accurate conclusions which will lessen the false positives" (TAP, pg 2) this will enable the employer to decide if the drug usage did affect or cause the outcome of the negative actions. Hesitation from the federal government to put these tests in place is also derived from the idea that the alternative tests would provide the employers with unnecessary information as to the timeframe of consumption (TAP, pg 1) thus giving them the upper hand in taking and "cheating" the test. At this point, it is under review for how far a company can go with drug testing without infringing on workers privacy. Because testing urine for illegal substances for example can not differentiate between consumption of marijuana for same day usage or five days before an incident occurs.

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The idea of reprimanding the employees for failing the test has a loop hole "in different cases, one specimen may be better than the other" said Dr Donna bus, drug testing leader at SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (TAP, pg 2) voicing the idea that urine test versus saliva may turn out different results for the same person who is taking the test and inevitably if tests false positive would tarnish their professional reputation.
This article was an informative vice used to compare the drug testing practices of national companies, search alternative testing as well as review the current guidelines for government workers and their privacy. "Drug testing may be an invasion of privacy, but because drug use puts other in danger, [drug testing] is an acceptable practice" stated G.A. Holland, chief estimator for Bloomfield, Conn., construction firm (Verespej, pg 189) The idea that testing is more important than an employees privacy is derived from the numerous examples of alternative testing shown in the article on the federal government. Views that federal workers become emotionally stressed by the changes to the current drug policy is mentioned in the article but states the "proposed changes would not go into effect until the agency solicits public comment, finalizes guidelines and prepares for the transition" (TAP, pg 1) "…workers are willing to give up their privacy for a safer working environment" is an example shown with statistical comparisons that increased in the percentage of people for the testing versus those against it (Verespej, pg 189) 19.3% of those surveyed say they consider drug testing an invasion compared to the 30% in the earlier survey" More recently, workers are feeling secure with their coworkers if they understand a drug test was required to perform their assigned tasks; they have become more accepting of the loss of privacy.
The Associated Press shows the federal government's views to be valuable for the workers success, the company's success and shows concern for protecting the rights of its workers but not enough to cease the drug testing. It generated statements showing what the government's intentions are with advanced testing "overhauling employee drug testing" (TAP, pg 1)The decision to change test equipment was based on the number of discrepancies that testers were finding with persons falsifying their own test results and also hearing persons stating that the "years of experience with workplace drug problems have made managers and employees less tolerant of users" (Verespej, pg 190) Privacy among federal government employees has become less of an expectation because again in order to work for the government there is a definite pre-employment drug test and each person is advised of random testing (TAP. Pg 1)
The belief that a corporation should be held liable for incidents that occur on the job by intoxicated persons has no direct relation to the government article. The government has a completely different set of guidelines for its employees than a private company may have. The ability to enhance the private company's drug testing policy is solely up to that company. Addressing company obligations to workers for their actions on the job while under the influence appears to be the theme Moore used in "The Ought Implies Can" theory. The article did not discuss government's responsibility to the workers if tests results were false; it voiced minimal concern for privacy, control over who received testing/administrators and gave brief suggestions for future testing (TAP, pg 1) It was shown with findings from a survey completed that employees are less concerned with their own privacy and more concerned with safety on the jobs. "93% of employees compared to the 88% four years ago feel they [managers] should be able to test employees for drug use" (Verespej, 191)
In conclusion, we see the two theories are not truly relevant or effective for the article on government changes. Each author shows minimal concern for employee privacy, each views testing as necessary but Verespej views the process as a negative if not continued. "Products and companies survival are too important to trust an employee with a drug problem" says Jack VerMuelen (Verespej, pg 190) the idea that alternative testing is more effective for the federal government generated from raising the success rate of the workers and demanding more responsibility. "45% of IW readers compared with 29.6% four years ago say that drug test should be conducted at random and include all employees (Verespej, pg 191) Improving the quality of tests used will deter workers from seeking out ways to deceive the tests, will promote a sense of fairness and increase the quality of life for the employees. Moore's ideas are inadequate for assisting the federal government's concerns because she again is addressing ‘who's at fault for the employees' negative actions' (Moore, pg 193) She is accepting of drug testing but her focus is liability from companies for their employees and moral responsibility. She concludes that she accepts that drug testing infringes on employee rights to privacy but she was not willing to address the issue, "drug testing is not only unnecessary for the protection of public safety but does not serve any ‘compelling interest' at all (Moore, pg 194-200) The issue raised by the federal government to enhance the types of testing to be used on workers can be partially resolved through Verespej's theory. Today, the federal government has all its' employees required to take random drug test regardless of the level of employment, timeframe with the company and regardless of age.

1. Government Plans Broader Drug Screening – Move could spur business to follow suit: The Associated Press, Jan 14 2004: link to news article below - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3960458/
2. Drug Users – Not Testing – Anger Workers: Verespej, Michael A., Industry Week, Feb 17, 1992: Taking Sides Ninth Edition, Newton and Ford pp 189-191
3. Drug Testing and Corporate Responsibility – The "Ought Implies Can"
Argument: Moore, Jennifer, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 8 pp 279-287:
Taking Sides Ninth Edition, Newton and Ford pp 192-204
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