Perhaps the most controversial of all drug screenings is the random drug test. Employers have the legal authority to request a random drug test, whether they have a reasonable suspicion or not. Many companies have implemented a policy of completely random drug testing. This practice can be likened to that of a lottery. If your name is selected then it is your turn for random drug testing; the employee may have little or no advance warning in these cases.
Employers often exercise their rights to administer random drug testing as a way to determine whether or not an employee is a drug user; drug use in the workplace is often blamed for absenteeism, health problems and on-the-job accidents. Although many companies already require pre-employment drug screenings, many claim that random drug testing is more effective at finding the drug users in their workforce. With a pre-employment drug screening, the employee often has at least a few hours of advance warning and therefore can attempt to take measures to “cheat” on the test. Many products are available to help users pass drug screenings; from synthetic urine to agents that mask the appearance of a particular drug, various methods exist for drug abusers to beat the tests.
Most of the random drug testing takes place in settings in which drug use can be hazardous to the well being of others. Factories and warehouses are two prime examples of places that often have random drug testing policies. Forklift drivers under the influence have often been the cause of serious, and occasionally fatal, accidents in the workplace. Drug abusers who work with other heavy machinery or on an assembly line run the risk of injury as well. Random drug testing can often produce quick and accurate results. Some employers have drug-testing kits available on-site, and a simple swab sample from the mouth can give an immediate positive or negative result.
Despite arguments against random drug testing, employers often stand firm on their decision to implement this policy. Whether there is probable cause or not, employers have the right to request drug screening at any time. It is in the employee’s best interest to abstain from drug use, whether on the job or not. Though privacy advocates suggest that random drug testing is a breach of an employee’s right to privacy, the simple fact remains that employers may choose this method if they deem necessary. The debate will likely continue well into the future.