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Whose Rights Are We Protecting?

The issue of employee drug testing has been in the news a lot in the past few months, with the case of Chiasson vs. KBR at the forefront of the controversy. But let’s examine the underlying concerns associated with employee drug testing.

Looking first from the side of the employee, the argument is that drug testing is an invasion of privacy and should have no bearing on their employment status. Potential employees occasionally feel that the use of drugs during non-work hours should not affect employment.

The main concern is that the substance use and abuse that we are discussing pertains to illegal materials that affect motor skills, mood and judgment. In safety sensitive jobs the difference between impairment and a clean mind could mean the difference between life and injury or on the extreme end, life and death.

Companies are finally trying to take a proactive approach in preventing substance abuse among their employees in the workplace and are being penalized because of it. These employers are trying to take a step in the right direction, and unfortunately, illegal drug users are taking companies to court feeling that their “right” to partake in illegal activities on their own time is being violated. This sounds completely ridiculous. Should the safety of all workers on a job site not take precedence over specific individuals who openly exercise their “right” to partake in illegal activities after work hours?

Consider the following statistics when deciding whether or not drug testing should be used as a screening technique with new employees.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the average cost of drug abuse per employee annually is $10,000 due to employee turnover, Workers Compensation claims, absenteeism, employee theft, violence on the job and the use of health care benefits.

When there is drug abuse in the workplace, annually, there is:

  • 5 times more Workers Compensation Claims
  • 30% greater employee turnover
  • 40 versus 4 days of employee absenteeism
  • 36 times higher employee theft
  • 300 – 400% more health care benefit utilization
  • A greater chance of workplace violence ( 2/3 of arestees in such incidences test positive)
    (National Instiutute on Drug Abuse)

I look forward to seeing if the current case of Kellogg Brown & Root goes to the Supreme court so that we can have a standard precedent to use in Canada. It is time for the frivolous court cases to stop, so that we can return our focus to the work at hand: Building the Canadian economy, and protecting our citizens in the process.