Each year, drug and alcohol abuse costs employers nearly $100 billion in lost productivity, according to a report from Santa Clara University. The problem is so rampant that companies are following the lead of the U.S. military and imposing random drug tests to ensure they employ drug-free candidates. But this process has seen its share of controversy. Many employees feel random urinalysis tests are an invasion of privacy. Some even refuse to take the test, which can lead to their termination. This heated debate has caused tension in the workforce, leaving business leaders to contemplate the pros and cons of random drug testing.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Heath Services Administration estimates that of the 20.3 million U.S. adults classified as having substance use disorders in 2008, nearly 16 million were employed either full- or part-time, according to a report from CNNMoney. The biggest advantage to urinalysis testing is that companies can filter out these drug users. And because random urinalysis tests can be given at any time and on a moment's notice, employees can't plan ahead to cheat the test.
Better Working Environment
Conducting random urinalysis tests says something about the company. It tells employees that certain standards of conduct and performance will be enforced. Implementing a drug-free culture reinforces a system of values that can permeate through all levels of the company. It also reduces the risk that drug abusers will injure themselves or others on the job, make errors that can damage the company and its reputation, and steal company property to support their drug habits. Some companies have reported 50 percent drops in drug related accidents and inventory shrinkage after implementing random drug testing.
As with all programs, there are disadvantages to random urinalysis testing. For one thing, it isn't cheap. The cost of conducting a random urinalysis program varies, but the cost can range from $20 to $35 per test. Companies are known to have administered up to 28,000 drug tests in a year, so the cost can add up quickly. Employers and business owners must consider many factors in relation to expense. They must decide if the tangible and intangible benefits of random urinalysis tests outweigh the cost of the program.
Another potential downside to random drug testing is the idea that it constitutes a breach of privacy, and can therefore contribute to lower employee morale. Many employees might feel violated when asked to give a urine sample. Some might feel they are being singled out unfairly, no matter how equitably the tests are administered. Others might fear that the tests will lead to inaccurate results. These types of employee concerns are especially problematic for companies that have just started implementing drug tests.
- Santa Clara University: This is a Test -The Dilemmas of Drug Testing;Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez
- Material Handling and Logistics: Just Say Yes - Drug Testing in the Workplace; Clyde Witt; May 2006
- U.S. Department of Labor: How Does Substance Abuse Impact the Workplace?
- New Jersey School Boards Association: Random Drug Testing Policy Does Not Violate the Constitution
Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.