Report Calls Employee Drug Testing a Bad Investment

December 15, 1999 12:00 am

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Drug testing has become a routine part of the hiring process in America, the Los Angeles Times reported on December 15th. Most large employers — 70%, according to the American Management Association — test a candidate when they are ready to make a job offer.

But a report by the ACLU, released in September, suggests that such testing is a waste of money and does not pay off for employers in decreased accidents, lower absenteeism rates, or increased productivity. The report, entitled “Drug Testing: A Bad Investment”, finds that proponents of drug testing rely on “junk science” and unsubstantiated claims. The ACLU’s report relies heavily on National Academy of Sciences research from 1994.

“Employers think they’re improving productivity and safety with urine testing, and the truth is they’re not,” said Lewis Maltby, author of the report and Director of the ACLU’s National Task Force on Civil Liberties in the Workplace. “In fact, drug testing may be counterproductive.”

Another recent study arrived at similar conclusions. That report, by two economics professors at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, found that firms with drug testing programs had lower levels of productivity than those that do not do drug testing.

Although drug testing of job candidates remains the norm in many types of organizations, some industries have begun to eliminate the tests for fear of driving away desirable employees. In extremely competitive fields, such as computer programming, employers are increasingly afraid of losing prize job candidates and are concerned that requiring a urine sample could cost them a coveted employee.

Even employers who conduct the tests generally have no idea whether they are benefitting from them. “Most employers never measure whether a drug testing pgoram is working,” said Eric Greenberg, director of research for the American Management Association. He noted that a drug test does not necessarily predict whether the employee will use drugs on the job. “What you’re really testing,” he said, “is whether someone is smart enough and strong enough to stay clean while they are conducting a job search.”

See also: The ACLU’s full report : “Drug Testing: A Bad Investment”

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