This is an opinion paper on Part 3 Issue 10 of the textbook Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Business Ethics and Society (6th ed.) by Lisa H. Newton and Maureen M. Ford. In this paper I will discuss my reaction to the issue “Should Concern for Drug Abuse Overrule Concerns for Employee Privacy”. The text discussed both sides of this issue. Michael A. Verespej took the “Yes” position in his paper Drug Users – Not Testing – Anger Workers. Jennifer Moore took the “No” position in his paper Drug Testing and Corporate Responsibility: The ‘Ought Implies Can’. I will give my opinion on the topic as it relates to the discussion in the text.
In his paper, Verespej took the position that concerns for drug abuse should override the privacy of the employee. To support this point, he showed data that people are less worried about inaccurate tests and that the majority of employees support testing.
In her paper, Moore took the position that concerns for drug abuse should not override the privacy of the employee. She believes that employees have moral privacy rights and that drug testing almost always trespasses on these rights. She believes that while corporations can be held responsible legally and morally for an employee’s actions on the job, that they should not have the right to require drug testing.
I did not find Moore’s paper to be well written. Often I had to go back and check if I was reading the “Yes” or “No” paper because it was not clear from reading. That said, I agree with Moore that corporations should have a moral right to prevent harm or damage caused by their employees. I also believe that if they should only be held morally and legally responsible for that which they can control. Corporate responsibility, in my opinion, should be something that every company practices. To this end, I see no problem with a corporation requiring employees to be drug tested in order to gain employment with a firm. An employee may have a moral right to privacy if they wish it, but what moral right does the employee have to a job with a particular firm? Many people trade off their right to privacy on a daily basis for jobs in the government sector as many of these jobs require a security clearance (as well as drug testing). I believe the amount of privacy to give up should be the decision of the employee. If they do not wish to give up that privacy, there are other jobs.
As Verespej noted, most employees have no moral issue with drug testing and the majority even favor it. In jobs where safety is an issue it makes workers feel more secure. In jobs where security is a must, it helps to prevent data leaks due to impaired judgment. The burden of cost for the testing is on the employer, so it is not keeping poor people from getting jobs. If the employees as a whole have no moral issue with the testing and the employers are for it, this should constitute the moral norm.
In her paper, Moore also did not offer any alternatives to drug testing. If drug testing is an infringement on employees, then how can we make sure they are drug-free in the workplace without invading their privacy? I would love to see some studies on using drug-sniffing dogs or chemical sensors to tell if employees have been using drugs during company hours. If methods such as these are viable and not cost-prohibitive it could change the way we view drug testing in the workplace.
I see no moral reasons why compulsory drug testing by employers should be discontinued. I believe it makes the workplace safer and helps companies fulfill their responsibility to their employees, their clients and society as a whole. I would wholly support any viable alternative to the current method of testing. Until such methods are available, I believe that drug testing in the workplace is the right thing to do.