RE: Writing / Drug Tests

Subject: RE: Writing / Drug Tests
From: Emru Townsend <etownsen -at- Softimage -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 08:35:08 -0400

Dan Emory writes:

> You are wrong. Insurance actuarial data is a valid predictor
> of how certain
> employee traits (e.g., currently using drugs) may increase
> the likelihood
> of an employee committing acts on the job that put the employer (and
> thus the insurer) in legal jeopardy.

I don't disagree that some circumstances can put the employer and insurer in
legal jeopardy. However, note that you said *likelihood*. Hypothetically,
having abusive parents might increase the likelihood of punching out a
manager (as you mention later) too. Should we then look into that as well?

Also, something I meant to bring up before (and which I was guilty of in my
last message): there's no distinction being made between hard drugs and
purely recreational drugs. You mention that people "strung out on drugs may
... be able to perform their duties well, but they're also likely to have a
higher incidence of aberrant behavior (e.g., punching out a manager or
fellow employee over some real or imagined
slight), in which case the company's failure to screen people for drug use
will make the company even more liable, because it has not done its best to
protect its employees from such people."

I have yet to hear or read of marijuana or E making anyone violent,
especially the day after using it. It's known that cocaine use leads to a
feeling of paranoia, but lumping all drugs together (while curiously being
lenient on the far less frowned-upon alcohol) seems a bit much.

To be clear, what I'm arguing here is that responsible use of "softer" drugs
in your off hours aren't necessarily any worse than smoking or drinking in
your off hours; testing for same is a problem. As for harder drugs: if
someone can use coke, PCP, or what have you and make it through the two or
three interviews required for a job, plus any probationary period, I don't
see how they're any worse than someone who promises much and turns out to
have lied on his resume or to be a slacker of epic proportions. (Again,
this does not include industries where careless job performance can cause
loss of life or limb.)

> This kind of anecdotal "evidence" is what is absurd. You're
> doing exactly what
> the Latin phrase "Nullius In Verba" (it appears in my
> signature block) is
> objecting to. Loosely translated, it means "give me data, not
> anecdotes"

You're right. And re-reading my missive, I'm kind of surprised I wrote
that. (Well, not that I wrote the anecdotes; that I used them as evidence.)

> If you don't like it, don't blame the employers, they're just
> as much victims
> of the system as you are. Instead, agitate for tort reform,
> and relaxation
> of oppressive
> regulations and labor laws whose unintended consequences are
> worse than the
> problems they sought to cure.

I'm all for tort reform. When it comes to labor laws, I'm something of a
moderate, since I see the potential for (and practice of) abuse either way.
I don't agree that companies are "just as much" victims -- they're far more
resilient than any individual employee can ever be.

All that said, none of this means that employees have to lie down and take
it until things get better. The principle of drug testing is what bothers
me. What's next, psychiatric profiles? Sexual history? DNA testing?
Having predictors is great, but at some point over-reliance on them means
eroding the premise of free will.

Emru Townsend, Information Developer | etownsen -at- softimage -dot- com
Softimage, Inc.
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