Tags: Marijuana Legalization | workplace | drug testing

Pros and Cons of Workplace Drug Testing

By    |   Saturday, 17 Oct 2015 11:56 PM

With more states coming closer to legalizing marijuana, drug testing in the workplace has become an increasingly hot topic.

Workplace drug testing began in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan mandated drug tests for all federal employees. The practice quickly became commonplace and by 1996, 86 percent of employers tested their employees for drugs. Since 2004, however, workplace drug testing has been declining, reported The Washington Post.

Currently, there are no federal laws that dictate drug testing in private sector workplaces. However, the Drug-Free Workplace Act requires federal contractors with contracts over $100,000 to regularly publish statements informing employees of illegal substances and promoting a drug-free environment. Additionally, most states have their own laws on drug testing.

Urgent: Should Marijuana Be Legalized in All States?

As Americans become less restrictive toward marijuana, the prevalence of workplace drug testing may shift. Below are pros and cons of workplace drug testing:

Pros

1. Deterrence
Drug testing makes the stakes of drug use even higher. Thus employees will be less inclined to use drugs if they know it could threaten their employment. According to the Office of Health and Safety Services (OHS), ongoing employee drug testing lowers the number of employees who test positive.

2. Safety
Whether an employee is operating machinery at a construction site or using a knife to chop onions at a diner, most jobs are safer when performed sober. By conducting drug testing, employers are fostering a safe work environment for their employees and for themselves.

3. Liability
Employees who are injured on the job or fired because of drug-related incidents will not be entitled to compensation and will be less likely to file suit against their employer. By testing employees for drugs, employers are protecting their firms from liability and could be saving money in the long run.

Vote Now: How Do You Feel About Marijuana Legalization?

Cons

1. Costs
Drug testing can cost anywhere from $8 to $42 per test, OHS reported. The estimated average national drug testing cost is about $38 a test. For a company with many employees, the cost of drug testing can add up.

2. Privacy
Drug tests can be an invasion of employees’ privacy. So long as employees are not coming to work under the influence, many argue that employers should not care what an employee does on their own time. Additionally, some employers make someone observe the employee during the drug test to assure that no tampering occurred. As a result, drug testing can break down trust among employees and the employer within a workplace.

3. Debatable Accuracy
The usefulness of drug testing is questionable. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that even the small margin of error associated with drug testing can make a big difference. If millions of tests are administered, even a 5 percent error rate can affect many employees. Drug tests also cannot differentiate between habitual and one-time use, making results possibly unfair.

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With more states coming closer to legalizing marijuana, drug testing in the workplace has become an increasingly hot topic.
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