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With a 1986 Executive Order titled “Drug-Free Federal Workplace”, President Reagan initiated a small but vital battle in his War on Drugs: the war on drug use in the workplace. While the executive order and its follow-up, the Drug-Free Workplace Act (1988), do not cover private-sector employees, these executive and legislative dictates provided the templates for the eventual widespread adoption of drug-testing policies and programs by “98 percent of Fortune 200 companies” (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2009, p. 172). The ways in which these policies have been implemented, and the extents to which those implementations run counter to statutory and ethical concerns with personal autonomy and privacy, are manifold, and—broadly—are the underpinning concern of the discussion presented here.
This discussion will be limited to drug testing in the private sector. More specifically, the focus will be on drug testing in the pre-employment, hiring phase, from a human resources (HR) perspective. But, as will quickly become apparent, such a focus is inextricably bound up with issues connected with post-hiring drug testing and from organizational perspectives that go beyond that of HR. The discussion begins with examination of the concerns which drive pre-employment drug testing—safe and negligent hiring—and then looks, critically, at the research-based evidence in support of and against the efficacy of such test and drug-testing policies more broadly construed....
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