Employers Having A Difficult Time Finding Employees Who Can Pass A Drug Test

The war on drugs has permeated our entire society. Police have been militarized and given almost limitless power, entire industries have developed around detecting illicit drugs, and employers have become snoops that test employees for illicit drug use. The last one really baffles me.

Outside of being coerced at the point of the State’s gun, why would an employer waste their time and the time of their employees testing them for drug use? If an employee is performing their job satisfactorily an employer shouldn’t care what that employee puts into their body. If an employee isn’t performing their job satisfactorily then the employer will likely terminate them regardless of the reason. But employers have allowed themselves to become snoops for the State and is do doing have handicapped themselves:

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A few years back, the heavy-equipment manufacturer JCB held a job fair in the glass foyer of its sprawling headquarters near here, but when a throng of prospective employees learned the next step would be drug testing, an alarming thing happened: About half of them left.

That story still circulates within the business community of this historic port city. But the problem has gotten worse.

All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.

That hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies.

I’ve heard a lot of people who work in human resource departments at software development firms joke about how their companies would lose all of their employees if they actually started doing drug testing. It’s good evidence that users of illicit drugs aren’t incapable of performing reliably. This is especially true when many drugs that are declared illegal aren’t actually that harmful. Cannabis, for example, is an example of a drug that’s still illegal in many states but doesn’t actually cause a great deal of harm. In fact it can improve an individual’s performance at work by helping them coax with anxiety or stress.

The lesson from this story is that you should not volunteer to enforce the State’s policies. Even though the State has declared a massive list of chemicals illegal that doesn’t mean you, as an employer, should volunteer to test your employees. You gain no advantage from it (when’s the last time you heard of the State giving a sizable reward to an employer for drug testing their employees) and actually put yourself at a severe disadvantage by limiting your pool of potential employees.

4 thoughts on “Employers Having A Difficult Time Finding Employees Who Can Pass A Drug Test”

  1. In your final paragraph you say “You gain no advantage from it”…Ya wanna rethink that one…I damn near got run over by a forklift driver who continued on to ram a pallet of dog food into the sprinkler system (what a mess) of a store…he was DUI on pot and his functions were impaired. Couple thousand in damaged merchandise…could have been worse. The state doesn’t necessarily need to be requiring tests but if I was an employer I sure as hell would be doing them…notwithstanding the litigation issues I wouldn’t want an impaired employee screwing up a contract…miscounting funds at the register…ad infinitum…part of running a business is minimizing mistakes (risk) and as an employer I want to know whether an employee is mentally or physically impaired (or has a good potential to be) before the accident, contract screwup, loss of revenue, etc.
    My employee, my responsibility.

    1. I damn near got run over by a forklift driver who continued on to ram a pallet of dog food into the sprinkler system (what a mess) of a store…he was DUI on pot and his functions were impaired.

      How would drug testing have prevented that? Most companies only perform drug tests either once when an employee is hired or up to a handful of times per year. The effects of alcohol dissipate within hours. Unless the company just happened to perform a drug test on the day that employee was operating the forklift or if the company performed drug tests on every forklift operator every day (and that would costs a tremendous amount of resources just to identify a very small minority of operators who might be using drugs on the job) no drug test would have detected if he was drunk. Cannabis effects different people in different ways. I know people who use cannabis medicinally that aren’t impaired by it. If the forklift driver regularly used cannabis it’s quite possible that it didn’t impair his ability to operate a forklift in the slightest. In that case a drug test wouldn’t have revealed anything pertinent to the problem.

      Drug tests aren’t an effective means of determining impairment since they are only administered infrequently and only tell you if drugs are present in a person’s system, not whether the person is impaired by those drugs. If an employee appears to be impaired it shouldn’t matter whether that impairment is due to drugs or simply being tried. Had the employee you mentioned done the exact same thing while stone sober but extremely tired it wouldn’t change anything.

      What would be more valuable are tests aimed at motor skills, attention, and responsiveness. Field sobriety tests, for example, test motor skills, balance, eye movement, and attention. The tests may not tell you why the subject is impaired but it shouldn’t matter to an employer. If an employee can’t pass an impairment test they shouldn’t be allowed to operate a potentially dangerous piece of equipment. If you want to prevent scenarios like the one you described you don’t need an infrequent drug test, you need a field sobriety test performed at the beginning of every forklift operator’s shift.

  2. The drug test administered at hiring wouldn’t have prevented the accident if he was “clean” at that point, however it would have prevented “that” accident if he had been caught and not hired. People make errors because they are tired, inattentive and distracted, hungover, whatever…the term was “minimize” mistakes and not hiring a known drug user just eliminates a range of possible issues that may occur. I don’t care if a person uses drugs or not, but I am free to choose whether to associate myself and my company with them. I don’t need to be trying to evaluate whether my meth user is functional today…or be in court trying to defend my “observer” credentials or lack thereof to an attorney if I guess wrong and he runs over somebody…it’s enough to evaluate if someone is over tired or hung over and yes then you’re talking motor skills tests. And on the cognitive side do I test my pot user everyday for mental sharpness or do I trust that their munchies means they skipped lunch to work on that contract.
    I’ve known and been related to drunks that appeared perfectly sober…I suspect that they were impaired but I couldn’t tell you because I never saw them sober…I assume that you have the background to medically confirm that your friend was unimpaired..or was that casual observation of their behavior? The guy on the forklift didn’t “appear” to be impaired…

  3. In fact it can improve an individual’s performance at work by helping them coax with anxiety or stress.

    My experience with cannabis (from many many years ago, of course! 😉 ) is that it helps me focus. I write computer programs, some of them huge, memory and CPU intensive monsters, both professionally and for fun. Cannabis has gotten a completely bum wrap.

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