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October 08, 2012

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I have neither information nor opinions about drug screening, but I felt impelled to write CONGRATULATIONS to Sprog the Elder, and thus, by implication, to you.

And there was general rejoicing.

1. The first time I was ever asked to take a drug test (which I never took, and no one ever said anything; I guess they lost the paperwork?) was when a large record distributor bought out the classical music magazine at which I worked; this was about 1996-97. The line was that since many of their employees worked in a warehouse with millions of CDs [sold on very small margin; such was their now defunct business model) they couldn't have desperate hard drug users (or something) that would be tempted to steal [or steal] merchandise; the testing of us editor/office types was to make it "fair."

I protested on the grounds that I felt it was an invasion of my privacy (I was young and idealistic); I was just waiting for someone to insist and I probably would have caved. But it never happened.

2. Well, at that time the labor market was actually pretty awful for employers; wages were relatively good and there were lots of jobs. Perhaps they were really worried about the warehouse guys. But it has always seemed like a matter of institutional control to me; the assertion of power over labor over and above their time at work.

There is a difference, however, between being screened while being considered for a job and being randomly screened throughout the duration of your employment (see(4.)). In some situations (ones that for example require a lot of driving of one sort or another) you can be retested in the event of an accident or job-related injury.

3. I don't know. It has certainly discouraged me from applying for some jobs, on the basis of "fnck that." You can have my bodily fluids when you come and take them from me. I am neither violent nor particularly confrontational, but: fnck that. I have to imagine that some small businesses are missing out on smart, productive stoner kids. People with serious hard drug habits often have obvious issues. Curiously, as Dr Science notes, the most common debilitating drug habit is socially accepted, legal, and not tested-for.

4. Yes and no, per the above. There are modestly effective over-the-counter screening agents available for the forward-thinking, discreet casual drug user.

I guess I can understand wanting to know whether a forklift operator (e.g.) is high on cocaine, or, at a stretch (which makes me uncomfortable) likely to be.

However, to your sort of larger question: mandatory pre-employment drug screening is sadly not at all uncommon in many industries and walks of life.

Hmm - if the company execs were tested at the same frequency, that would make sense, as they have far more power to mess things up. Oddly enough, we never see them being tested. I think it's just a power trip, to be honest.

you have to pee in a cup to work in a library?

what, are you going to drive the card catalog into a ditch?

sometimes i think people just need something to be hysterical about.

hearty congrats to your daughter doc, it's fabulous when the young folks find their first toehold in the world. much luck and success to her!

Congrats to the Sprog the Elder. I just finished some research on synchronous chat, and I was surprised to discover that a lot of the references were related to librarians working with patrons online. If her job entails some sort of research production and she's interested in that as a topic, let me know and I'll try and sort out my reference list for her.

It goes back to 1986 and Pres. Reagan's push for a "drug-free workplace".

The only time I was drug tested was for summer work on the assembly line at a General Motors factory, assembling carburetors. And, apparently, I flunked. Not because I was taking anything illegal, but because I liked to drink quinine water or tonic water or Schweppes' Bitter Lemon, which contains quinine.

This mattered, I was told, because quinine is the byproduct of heroin in the urine, and since I denied drinking mixed drinks I must therefore be a drug addict. I was never asked if I liked drinking the mixers, and the nurse didn't listen when I told her; there was, apparently, some interdepartmental politics going on and it was a convenient way to get rid of a summer worker who might otherwise become full time and join the UAW. (That's what I put together later on; at the time it was largely a joke because it had never been more than a summer job, and they needed a body in my slot to operate that electronic screwdriver on the wing nuts of the float bowls.)

So I worked for six weeks, standing up or leaning against a tall stool eight hours a day at the end of the assembly line, made enough money to pay my expenses for the first year of undergrad, and left. They really needn't have worried about me making it my life's work.

I don't recall any similar required tests later on for work at newspapers or in government, or selling books at Borders.

for me, it started in the late 90s. and, given the volatile nature of the software business, i've had a half-dozen jobs since then. and i've had to do a drug test for each. i did two for my current job: one when i was a contractor, and another when they converted me to a permanent employee.

haven't yet come across a place that does random post-hire tests, though. when that starts, i'll be looking for a new field.

Do the libraries force all of the writers of the works in the literature and poetry sections to undergo urine tests?

And what of the library patron whose checkout list is a who's who of pants pissers, say Malcolm Lowry, Chris Hitchens, Coleridge, William S. Burroughs, Hunter S.Thompson, Sylvia Plath, and Keith Richards.

Law enforcement, for those on probation for DUI convictions, for example, have someone accompany the individual into the heavily mirrored loo to witness their scheduled micturations.

Which is funny, if you think about it, because in any other setting, this would be cause to alert law enforcement of inappropriate lurking.

"Yes, officer, the creep stood behind me and stared at me the entire time while I did my business privates. Worse, he called me by name! It took me a good long time to get started, if you get my meaning."

There are a few bookstores around the country who have succumbed, happily, to the entrepreneurial spirit and installed wet bars to lubricate the literary sensibilities and loosen the wallets.

Fiddler, urine tests to work for newspapers would pretty much decimate that already decimated industry.

I've toyed with the idea of a urine test and breathalyzer lock for Michelle Malkin's keyboard, except that the requirements would be in reverse -- if she HASN'T consumed at least drinks before posting, she is deemed unfit to blog.

Until my current job (IT guy at a games company), I've always had to pee for full-time work. Pharma tech, IT guy for telecoms company, IT guy for IT contractor in pharma biz, IT guy for document management company. The first two jobs explained it as lowering their insurance premiums if they were a drug-free workplace - given that they did manufacturing and a lot of driving respectively, that explanation makes moderate sense. Pfizer also had a drug-free policy - perhaps this was irony.

weird.

I've been writing code for almost 30 years, and it's never, ever, ever come up, even once.

And that includes a couple of stints in the bowels of the dreaded military industrial complex.

I used to know a guy - really bright guy and a good coder, he was working on networked file systems before those were common - whose boss kept him supplied with with weed.

Apparently, it helped him focus. He would catch a good buzz and get into some really productive, multi-hour long deep dives.

We should forget about the tax arguments, forget about entitlement reform, quit worrying about a runaway DoD budget.

We could just take all the money we spend hassling people (where for "hassling" please include "throw in jail for years and years") for altering their consciousness in their free time, put it on the national debt, and we'd likely be home free.

I can see the need in a public safety context, or if you're operating heavy equipment, or responsible for kids. There are lots and lots of contexts where non-impairment on the job is crucial.

But what we have going on now is some kind of hysteria. It's harmful, expensive, and nutty.

Fiddler brings up a good point -- what about false positives? Poppyseed bagels/pastries are the classic trap (one of the local delis sells poppyseed hammantashen the size of dinner plates); I'm sure there are others.

Re Reagan's "drug free workplace":
"Drop your zipper for the Gipper" -- Abbie Hoffman

And congrats to Sprog the Elder!

I've never had to take a drug test for an IT job. (I did get a full physical once, back in the mid-1980s when I went to work for an HMO. I suppose they might have included a drug test then. But if so, they never mentioned it to me.)

I wouldn't be surprised if part of the push for them is a reaction. There is a very large and growing trend towards decriminalizing, at least marijuana and (God willing) other targets of the Drug War. If you have your company screen for drug use, you may think you are helping hold back the tide -- if marijuana smokers get winnowed out of the workforce, they won't have money to devote to legalization efforts.

And I thought Stephen made an excellent point. Nobody seems to do much drug screening on senior executives, who are frequently in a position to do far more harm. Sort of makes you wonder....

I recently started a contract job at a pharma/biotech compnay, and I had to agree to a drug test, background check, credit check and a legal history check. This is the first time I've been subjected to most of these. I did have to take a drug test at my last job because that was the policy of the investor company.

I personally don't think that what one does in one's private life necessarily has any bearing on how one does one's job, so I find the whole thing just so much theater. And what's the legal history check about? If I had been part of a whistleblower case or had filed a complaint against a previous employer for sexual harassment, does that mean I am no longer employable?

The thing is, the company didn't specify what specifically they were looking for. What criteria are used to decide I'm not an acceptable employee? A certain credit score? Work history on a political campaign? Filing a restraining order against a violent ex-spouse? What?

Congratulations to the Sprog the Elder!

Yeah, drug testing should really be legally restricted to professions where there's a safety issue. And the zero tolerance crap is ridiculous.

I can see the need in a public safety context, or if you're operating heavy equipment, or responsible for kids. There are lots and lots of contexts where non-impairment on the job is crucial.

Sure, airline pilots, truck drivers, people who drive to work, people who assemble products that, if not assembled properly, can fail and harm others.

Yes, it's liability and a bunch of other things. If a library seems a stretch, it isn't. It's like any other premise open to the public in which older people, people with disabilities, children, strollers, walkers etc. show up. Wet floors, books on the floor, carpet and rug issues, stairs, elevators, etc. all give rise to accidents. Librarians have the same obligation to maintain a safe premise as anyone else. They need to be 'in the game' to do so.

bluefoot:

We would tell you, but it would ruin the sadistic fun.

See, if you are unemployed and have stopped looking for work, you are a parasite.

If you look for work, you are a suspect.

If you are denied work, you are guilty of unidentifiable crimes.

If you find work, we keep a close watch to see if we can catch you out and transfer you from the mere suspect category back to parasite status.

If you assemble all of the letter "K"s in the Constitution, it is ambiguous whether or not the Ks stand for Kafka or KGB.

But not seriously, I'm pretty sure this stuff in the private sector is mostly a result of insurance requirements.

The levels of government that require mysterious testing do so as well at the behest of the private sphere through their elected representatives because if individuals in the private sphere must be surreptitiously watched and monitored and poked and prodded, and their bodily fluids analyzed, well then, doubly so for those government employees, who maintain both parasite and suspect status simultaneously at all times to please the sadistic impulses of the citizenry.

It seems the Constitution leaves all KGB behavior not specified as a government function to the private sphere, where it is accomplished so much better and at lower cost.

My first "real" job in 1992 was in the nuclear industry. Anyone allowed within the first layer of security at a nuclear plant needed a drug and alcohol test prior to entry and was subject to both random and for-cause testing thereafter. It was that way at every other nuclear plant I worked at, through 1999. I'm sure it still is that way.

My current job required pre-employment testing, which I believe included testing for alcohol, and I am subject to for-cause testing, which definitely includes alcohol. Only people in positions deemed "safety sensitive" are subject to random testing at my current place of work. I am not one of them.

You can do about as much cocaine as you can stand on a Friday night, and unless you are tested on Monday or Tuesday of the following week, you will test negative. Even light, occassional marajuana use won't show up several days after partaking. The commonly quoted 30-days is a maximum, applying to regular, heavy smokers. Most people I spoke to understood it to mean that one puff, or even being at a party where you might breathe second-hand pot smoke, would show up in a test administered within the next 30 days. (I never told them that I knew from experience that they were wrong.) And we all know, or should by now, that your body removes roughly one drink's worth of alcohol per hour, so you can get blind drunk on a Saturday and be clean on Monday.

On false positive, there is usually a more expensive test that can discriminate between consuming poppy seeds or tonic water and using opiates. When I was a nuke, depending on the positive test result, a follow-up test would be performed to validate it.

The scarier thing is hair-follicle testing. I don't know how worthwhile urine testing is in either "catching" people or making the workplace safer. But hair-follicle testing would be so effective at the catching part that it could potentially keep some very good workers from being hired.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_test#Hair_testing:

Because body hair grows at a different rate than head hair, the timeframe changes, with scientists estimating that drug use can be detected in body hair for up to 12 months.

I've always found tipsy librarians to be a hoot.

When the librarian is slurring her words and motions exaggeratedly and says a little too loudly and leeringly, "Here, fffollow me into the sthackths and I'll thow you thwhere we keep "The Posthman Alwayths Ringths Twictheth", and maybe thwree timeths depending on whether you require thome perthonal ffrranking", well, let me just say that my decimals go all dewy and my reading comprehension jumps two notches.

I turn around to other patrons awaiting service and I just shrug and say,"Looks like the computers are down."

Like russell, I've never encountered drug testing a software engineer; maybe I've been lucky or maybe the northeast is a bit more tolerant.

Sure, airline pilots, truck drivers, people who drive to work, people who assemble products that, if not assembled properly, can fail and harm others.

One of these things is not like the others.

If I get totally smashed and then drive to work, killing a pedestrian before I get there, the company is not in any way responsible.

Yes, it's liability and a bunch of other things. If a library seems a stretch, it isn't.

So, are there any jobs, any jobs at all, where you think a drug test would not be justified by safety concerns? Because it sounds like you think it is perfectly reasonable to drug test librarians because of "stairs" or "wet floors" (libraries are now janitors?). I mean, every job I can think of has either "stairs" or "elevators" or the possibility for floors to become wet.

hairshirthedonist wrote:

"And we all know, or should by now, that your body removes roughly one drink's worth of alcohol per hour, so you can get blind drunk on a Saturday and be clean on Monday."

Science marches on. There's now a test (ETG) in common use that can detect alcohol consumption within 96 hours -- four days --- even one drink.

It analyzes liver enzymes.

There's argument about its specific accuracy over that time span, but good luck explaining that to whomever requires the explanation.

killing a pedestrian before I get there, the company is not in any way responsible.

But it's hard on the pedestrian and the pedestrian's family. Being under the influence of drugs and on the road is an issue, regardless of whether someone else is vicariously liable for the doper's conduct.

I mean, every job I can think of has either "stairs" or "elevators" or the possibility for floors to become wet.

Correct. There is virtually no environment where someone under the influence is not a risk to themselves or others. Whether it's a worker's compensation claim or a third party claim, employers prefer to avoid that risk.

But it's hard on the pedestrian and the pedestrian's family.

I don't think anyone would deny this, but what concern is that to one's employer, particularly? I mean, I don't want to be run over by a wasted driver, but that doesn't mean I get to demand drug testing of anyone who might drive near me, let alone that I should expect the employers of those people to drug test them. Given that argument, why not have the state drug test everyone?

Whether it's a worker's compensation claim or a third party claim, employers prefer to avoid that risk.

But it's a monetary risk in the end, and it cannot be avoided entirely, regardless. Drug testing costs money. The question is, when it is worthwhile?

Being under the influence of drugs and on the road is an issue, regardless of whether someone else is vicariously liable for the doper's conduct.

But why is this an issue for employers to deal with? I mean, people also occasionally snap and murder their spouses: should employers also perform regular psychiatric exams to deal with that too? Do you they think they'd be justified if they did?

Correct. There is virtually no environment where someone under the influence is not a risk to themselves or others.

But there are an infinite number of risks present in any workplace. It is not rational to single out this one particular risk unless you have evidence that it is particularly salient or unless the expected cost of mitigating it is much less than the expected cost of ignoring it. Drug testing librarians clearly fails that test: alcohol is a far bigger risk than drugs.

And if drug testing librarians isn't rational, then it is nothing but an arbitrary exercise of power, a way to humiliate and degrade workers because their bosses enjoy degradation. There are a great many people who get off on humiliating others; the ethical ones practice their kink in the context of personal relationships or pay people from craigslist; the unethical ones impose drug tests on librarians.

but what concern is that to one's employer, particularly? I mean, I don't want to be run over by a wasted driver, but that doesn't mean I get to demand drug testing of anyone who might drive near me, let alone that I should expect the employers of those people to drug test them. Given that argument, why not have the state drug test everyone?

If the impaired employee makes it to work without killing or injuring someone, he/she then is at risk to him/herself or others. It's not something I'm making up, it's how I make my living: defending cases where this stuff happens. Routinely.

The question is, when it is worthwhile?

It's the accident(s) that does/do not happen. It's risk mitigation. It's cheaper, by a long shot, to not hire a doper than to run the risk.

But there are an infinite number of risks present in any workplace. It is not rational to single out this one particular risk unless you have evidence that it is particularly salient or unless the expected cost of mitigating it is much less than the expected cost of ignoring it. Drug testing librarians clearly fails that test: alcohol is a far bigger risk than drugs.

This is 100% theory, divorced completely from reality. A doper may not smell of dope, or weave or have red eyes or slur his/her speech. They can be and often are below the radar--I've seen this and the deaths and permanent injuries they leave behind at a cost of millions to their employers and victims many times. The cost of drug testing 80% of a workforce vs 100% is not high and is peanuts compared to one wrongful death settlement or judgment.

If you don't want to be tested, don't apply for work at companies who view impaired workers as risks. And, by what right does anyone tell a private employer that it cannot test for drugs or alcohol?

I've seen this and the deaths and permanent injuries they leave behind at a cost of millions to their employers and victims many times.

I'd like to see statistics on the number of librarians whose rampant drug use (but not alcohol abuse!) lead directly to deaths and permanent injuries in the workplace.

I'm sure this has happened at least once, but I don't believe it to be commonplace. For very low probability risks, insurance is often a much more rational risk mitigation mechanism than outright denial.

And, by what right does anyone tell a private employer that it cannot test for drugs or alcohol?

Well, as a shareholder and as a voter, I think I have every right to tell companies and governments that they should not engage in drug testing that fails cost/benefit analysis. Or do you think the right of management to degrade their employees purely for their own gratification is so strong that it needs no financial justification?

It's not something I'm making up, it's how I make my living: defending cases where this stuff happens. Routinely.

No one thinks you're making it up. But you see only those cases where something happens. This doesn't mean you have a meaningful statistical sample and are in a position to assess risk in a rigorous actuarial way. I don't think anyone is saying that all drug testing is wrongheaded. I think people are skeptical of some drug testing for some employees.

And, by what right does anyone tell a private employer that it cannot test for drugs or alcohol?

Turbs point regarding publicly traded companies and governments aside, I wouldn't claim any right to tell a private employer what to do. I still might question whether or not what that employer did was worthwhile. If they want to waste their own money, that's on them. The question is whether or not the money is wasted (as opposed to the employees! ...ba-dump-bump).


I work for a defense contractor. Defense contractors (company policies may vary) have in general been routinely drug-screening employees since before 1990. I can't recall when I was first tested but I think it was 1992 or 1993.

And every time I've switched employers since then, which means 1999 and 2000. I've never been asked to pass a drug test while already employed, though, which seems odd.

My wife worked for a building construction company, and they required drug screening prior to hiring. Also they did a background check for DUIs, because their insurance carrier would not cover drivers who had a DUI on their record.

So: I think it's fairly common in some kinds of work. In a library, though, it seems to me that the worst damage you could commit would be some kind of mis-shelving.

In a library, though, it seems to me that the worst damage you could commit would be some kind of mis-shelving.

Stores get sued constantly for trip hazards and slip-and-falls. A library is a lower risk environment than a store. But, it's still an environment where those in control of the premises need to be engaged and aware of risks to others, particularly the very young, the elderly and those with limitation.

Not to mention issues arising from diminished judgment--what may seem amusing while impaired may well be harassment.

Let us not forget that employee urinalysis (or as I like to call it, the Great Piss Take Upon Labor) is based on the idea that urine tests are highly reliable, even though their high rate of false positives is widely known.
The tests were developed, after all, for epidemiological studies of populations, not the identification and stigmatization of individuals.

There is virtually no environment where someone under the influence is not a risk to themselves or others.

I think most folks would agree that employees should not be drunk, stoned, or using while *at work*.

Drug tests discover whether you are drunk, stoned, or using *at all*. I.e., at home, on your own time, totally outside the scope of your job.

I can see the sense of, frex, not hiring someone with a record of DUI's for a job where they will be driving *as part of their job*.

I can't see the sense of, frex, not hiring someone to be a librarian if they smoked marijuana Friday night before last.

I'm speaking as someone whose greatest personal vices are wine with dinner and an occasional bourbon. That, and M&M's. I have no personal dog in the fight.

It just seems stupid and intrusive.

Folks get bent out of shape about the "nanny state". This is the "nanny labor market".


Stores get sued constantly for trip hazards and slip-and-falls.

But drug testing librarians doesn't eliminate lawsuits from trip hazards or slip-and-falls. It might reduce them slightly. Although I don't see how: is the idea here that librarians, instead of janitors, will mop the floor and neglect to put up a yellow sign warning patrons of a wet floor?

So, just to confirm, you don't have any workplace incidents of death or maiming resulting from drug but not alcohol consuming librarians, let alone any evidence that this is a significant problem?

Stores get sued constantly for trip hazards and slip-and-falls.

Therefore urine testing employees for drugs is effective and worthwhile, always.

Finally, I get to agree with people here. What russell and Turbulence said!

I worked as a librarian in the UK for the best part of 20 years. I never got screened for drugs, not even when I nearly ended up as a librarian with MI5 (I'd tell you more about that, but then I'd have to kill you AND then catalogue your remains).

Yet somehow, the libraries of Britain are not lethally dangerous hellholes. You don't need drugs-testing to keep libraries safe and I wonder what the people who suggest you do are on.

I have been subject to random urinalsis since 1986, and I conduct it frequently as part of my job.

I am currently separating two Soldiers for failing urinalysis. Both have multiple combat deployments, and all records suggest they performed admirably. They are now in the Army Reserves, they were most likely smoking pot on thier own time, and there was no indication from any of their leaders that they were a problem when doing their Soldier jobs.

But they could lose thier VA benefits (ie,service related medical and mental health, loans, etc.). Since this is within the range of my discretion, I refuse to take away combat veteran VA benefits due to drug use. The separation is pretty much out of my control.

Lots of other Soldiers don't get the same discretion exercised by leaders, even though it should be obvious that at least some of these guys are self medicating PTSD (my own chain of command is very supportive of my position).

One of the guys was recommended by his previous leader to lose his benefits, but since it took two years for the system to reach a decision, it fell into my lap and I had the opportunity to reach a different choice. The other guy just started proceedings last month, and who knows what will happen if it drags out as long as the last one.

All this is to say that I disagree with punitive drug testing when the employee has not failed at work. As an addiction/disease, employers should provide treatment as part of the process, or forego testing.

So, just to confirm, you don't have any workplace incidents of death or maiming resulting from drug but not alcohol consuming librarians, let alone any evidence that this is a significant problem?

No, no injured librarians. Plenty of cases where ostensibly low/no risk job descriptions were inattentive and they or someone else was injured.

Intuitively, I'd imagine the cost of inattention shows up elsewhere: missed orders, paperwork errors, misfiled documents, etc.

There are productivity angles as well as safety angles. I agree a Friday night joint is irrelevant to Monday morning functionality. I also agree that there are those who seem more functional high than not high. People who exercise personal responsibility fall into one class, but there are others who do not act responsibly.

I've seen them kill and injure people. Just guessing, there are others who make their presence known in less obvious and less ways.

Drug testing is no more and actually much less degrading that going to the doctor. I don't see much of an interest outside liberal and libertarian activist circles for dialing back.

Excellent, jrudkis.

Finally, I get to agree with people here.

Yay!

Welcome to the dark side, sapient....

(cue fiendish Vincent Price laughter...)

:)

also, what jrudkis said..

Intuitively, I'd imagine the cost of inattention shows up elsewhere: missed orders, paperwork errors, misfiled documents, etc.

You know who is really inattentive? People with sick kids at home. Or people having marital troubles. Employers should fire anyone who gets married or has kids; that would be best for productivity, and maximizing productivity is the most important thing in the world.

Drug testing is no more and actually much less degrading that going to the doctor.

Sure, and Abu Gharib was just a bunch of harmless frat hazing.

And if my boss grabbed my genitals, then that too would be just like going to the doctor and being asked to cough. No difference there.

I think you're missing the consent angle. I don't have to go to the doctor. If I choose not to, no one can fire me. But if my workplace requires drug testing for no good reason, I have to submit to those tests or I'll be fired.

I don't see much of an interest outside liberal and libertarian activist circles for dialing back.

If so, meaning what? I mean, I've accepted being subject to some employment-related drug-testing regime for 20 years, so maybe I don't have much of an interest in dialing back. But that doesn't mean I think that all instances of drug testing, for employment or otherwise, are worthwhile. (And I might go so far as to say something about it on a blog once in a while.)

I don't see much of an interest outside liberal and libertarian activist circles for dialing back.

Let's dial it forward then. If productivity and safety are so important, I think attorneys going to court and judges as well should have mandatory drug tests, including those for alcohol. If you fail such a test, you should lose the ability to practice in a courtroom for a year.

The merits of this proposal are obvious: no one should be represented or have their case decided by someone whose judgement has been compromised by drug abuse. I mean, people have been sent to death row because their attorneys fell asleep at trial, a sleepiness that may very well have been the result of imbibing too much wine at lunch. Moreover, even when courts don't decide life and death, everything about them is incredibly expensive, so we should reduce anything that hinders judicial productivity.

Don't you agree? Isn't it best to be on the safe side, to minimise risks? I mean, our nation's court officers have far far more power than a bunch of librarians. So we should do far more to secure their proper judgement.

I have never had a drug test in any attorney related job.

I think my bar association does a good job of eliminating the rif-raf through misconduct issues without it.

I have eliminated an army reserve officer for drug use. He was a California attorney.

Isn't it best to be on the safe side, to minimise risks?

I have to say, this line of thinking doesn't sound too far off from McKinney's on the military thread, at least as far as I can tell. We don't know what the next Rwanda will look like, so how can we prepare for anything but the worst? We must have the largest, most capable military humanly possible, just in case. We need to be safe and able to police the globe, just like we need to keep the dopers from working. (Being killed or maimed by the stoned and unemployed is another matter.)

Don't you agree? Isn't it best to be on the safe side, to minimise risks?

In fact, I do agree. Substance abuse is much higher among attorneys, and certainly among trial attorneys. We do serve a semi-public function, again trial lawyers in particular. An impaired attorney poses a high risk to a client's welfare, particularly in the criminal context. So sure, test away.

We must have the largest, most capable military humanly possible, just in case.

Did I write that? What I meant to say is that virtually none of the commenters seem to have anything substantive to say about defense spending other than they don't like it and can almost never think of a reason why having any kind of defense establishment at all makes sense. But, I guess I should have put this in the other thread.

Back to drug testing--if private employers (or public for that matter) want to impose a drug test as a condition of employment, that is neither irrational nor is it an undue imposition. There are good reasons for drug testing and none of the opponents will be around to indemnify the victims of a regime that outlaws some or all testing.

So sure, test away.

We should be the change we wish to see in this world. Are you willing to commit to never consuming alcohol or drugs within one year of all court appearances? I mean, if Dr Science's child can't be allowed to work as a librarian if she smoked pot on her own time in the last N months, shouldn't you commit to not taking drugs or imbibing alcohol as well?

virtually none of the commenters seem to have anything substantive to say about defense spending other than they don't like it and can almost never think of a reason why having any kind of defense establishment at all makes sense.

I don't mean to pick a fight, but I think lots of folks have made a number of concrete and specific suggestions about military commitments and/or expenditures that they consider unnecessary.

So - scale back foreign bases, reduce the number of carrier groups, eliminate certain expensive weapon systems. Stuff like that.

In general, you have found those suggestions to be unwise because they seem to leave us vulnerable to threats that you find more compelling than other folks seem to.

In other words you *disagree*.

That's fine, but it's not the same as "other folks have made no concrete proposals".

that is neither irrational nor is it an undue imposition.

Personally, I find the idea that someone should not be hired as a librarian because he or she indulged in something like marijuana on an occasional and/or recreational basis to be both irrational and an undue imposition.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with their ability to do their job. It incurs no health risks more serious than a thousand other things that are seen as perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's far less harmful than many of those.

There is no point to it, by which I mean it creates no real benefit, to anyone. It costs money. It requires employers to inquire about the private lives of their employees in areas that are irrelevant to their ability to do their job.

Irrational, undue imposition, and pointless to boot.

If there's a relationship to job performance, fine. If not, it's not the employer's business.

Are you willing to commit to never consuming alcohol or drugs within one year of all court appearances?

You link alcohol with drugs pretty freely. Alcohol is legal except when consumed to the point of intoxication in public. Drugs are not. Further, drugs are subject to abuse without outward and visible signs of impairment. Alcohol much less so (although it can and surely does happen).

I give up my right to smoke pot, yes. To engage in other lawful activity, no. I want Dr S' child to get the job she most desires, to be happy and to have a great life. Drug tests are a known risk and fact of life to those seeking employment. You make that decision, as an adult, and have to live with it. My kids did.

I think lots of folks have made a number of concrete and specific suggestions about military commitments and/or expenditures that they consider unnecessary.

I missed anything usefully specific and to those who made such comments, my apologies.

you have found those suggestions to be unwise because they seem to leave us vulnerable to threats that you find more compelling than other folks seem to.

Actually, I never found those comments at all. I missed them completely. I will go look for them. Right now.

I can't see the sense of, frex, not hiring someone to be a librarian if they smoked marijuana Friday night before last.

If you possess a DoD (and I'd guess DOE and any other federal agencies that issue security clearances, drug use is normally a disqualifier. And lack of clearance prevents you from doing certain kinds of work.

Personally, I would prefer an exception for marijuana, along with its legalization. They don't after all exclude people for alcohol use. But I don't have high hopes, so to speak.

Illegal drug use carries over with it an implication of willingness to engage in criminal activities, as well as the necessity of having something to hide. Along with that last comes some vulnerability to coercion via blackmail.

But alcohol is perfectly ok. I once worked with a guy who would arrive at work in the morning still drunk. I think eventually they got rid of him, but not right away.

I left out one of ); hopefully it's obvious where that ought to have gone.

Looking at my previous comment, it appears that I am defending drug testing, where the intended flavor is that this is pretty much dictated to us by our customers, and we don't have much to say about it.

I do think quite a few of us (over here, on this side of the screen) probably think it's not such a bad thing to exclude e.g. cokeheads from the list of people who are privy to US military secrets. Partially because coke is expensive, and once you run out of money, passing some of those secrets on to other people in exchange for more money might start looking like a good idea.

I would not underestimate the dangers in libraries (even with everyone sober) but don't think that it is relevant here.
Some 'random' drug testing is clearly just a pretense for several questionable purposes but some of it is, I think, just the result of either institutional paranoia or inertia. There are some originally useful rules in the books that have become over time applied absurdity. E.g. I once had to sign, for a 3 month internship, a (literally yellowed) form that I did not partake in pre-1945 Nazi crimes and that there was no current investigation or trial against me concerning that. I was born in 1973 and even my parents were only born after WW2 had already started. For my next internship the company was at least more up to date and asked about potential work for the former East German Secret Police (Stasi) which would have at least been possible.
I think, unless strictly safety/security related, German companies are not allowed to check the drug habits of their employees even if they have a no-tolerance policy. But they can require a yearly medical check-up including blood and urine testing (but only standard stuff).

I will go look for them. Right now.

I'm back. Didn't see much other than Cleek wanting to cut defense spending and overseas bases by 90%. That's substantive? Drones aren't popular, either are sanctions and the US is actually pretty damn awful in its foreign policy. This seems to have always been the case, except WWII and the Civil War.

If Obama takes this tack in the foreign policy debate, it will be game over. These views are outliers.

So, McKinney, are you saying that all employment-related drug testing is worthwhile and that there are no reasons - financial, moral, ethical, scientific or humanistic - that weigh against it? And I'm not talking about a ban. I'm talking about whether or not it's always a good idea, on the whole - whether the costs, all of them, are always worth the benefits, in any and all types of employment in any and all work environments.

There is virtually no environment where someone under the influence is not a risk to themselves or others.

So, McK, what you seem to be saying is that all of our current drug laws, not to mention restoring Prohibition, could be justified on the basis of liability alone. At some point, we need to accept that perfect safety is simply not possible in the real world. And bring our liability laws into conformance with that obvious reality.

I'm a coder in the Boston area. I've never had to take a drug test, though my impression is that I would have to for most jobs with military contractors.

And bring our liability laws into conformance with that obvious reality.

We don't need to do anything about "liability laws". There are people who perform poorly for a variety of reasons, and people who perform well despite a variety of obstacles (including their own personalities). If someone's job is to keep stuff off the floor and they don't do it, they need to be fired, not made to take a drug test. That's absurd, and it doesn't have any support in the law.

Interesting comments and a lot of things going on here. I'm curious if any drug tests are done not because of the potential of being impaired, but because being addicted could open a person up to being on the hook.

Many companies drug test to screen people unable to pass something that they know about well in advance, from addiction or lack of brains. For those that haven't seen testing after being hired, except for a few high security environments employers would rather not know if you are an addict or an alcoholic.

There are many places that require an employer that has direct knowledge of a drug or alcohol problem to treat the employee as having a medical condition.

It is easier to just terminate someone for nonperformance.

Maybe employers should screen out workaholics:

This, via Sullivan:

http://www.thefix.com/content/reckless-pursuit-being-busy


I do think quite a few of us (over here, on this side of the screen) probably think it's not such a bad thing to exclude e.g. cokeheads from the list of people who are privy to US military secrets.

I agree with those of you over there, on that side of the screen. I would say that participation in any illegal activity, along with a number of legal ones, could disqualify you from employment in a situation where you would have access to sensitive information.

Not just of a national security nature, I would include financial information and perhaps other forms of sensitive information like health records, etc.

I held a Secret clearance for a number of years. When I had my interview with the folks from DIS, they were basically uninterested in youthful pharmacological adventures, but highly interested in an occasion when I found myself behind on self-employment taxes.

Anything that can be used as leverage - illegal activity, financial hardship or unusual risk-taking, a serious gambling habit - can expose you to exploitation by folks who would like to leverage your access to information for their own use.

So, in my opinion, it would be legitimate for folks working around secret or sensitive information to be held to a no-drugs-anytime standard. Among other, similar standards.

Basically, my point of view is that private life is private life until and unless it conflicts with the requirements of the job.

In my very humble opinion, recreational use of drugs like marijuana don't present a reasonable likelihood of interfering with someone's ability to work as a librarian.

And, of course, the issue that is bound up in this is the irrationality of the US controlled substances schedule. Horse tranquilizers, cocaine, and crank are treated the same as entheogenic plants that have been a normal part of human culture as long as there has been a human culture.

You can't build a sane policy on crazy foundations. Garbage in, garbage out.

I'm back. Didn't see much

My apologies McK, I was not referring specifically to the other thread, but to a longer history of discussion of the topic, generally.

So sorry to have sent you down the rabbit hole.

From the time I spent in the military, I concluded the the military would have a lot fewer personal problems if it discouraged alcohol consumption and encouraged marijuana consumption.

CharlesWT:

I can no longer plan to have a meeting at a bar on post on a Friday or Saturday night on a major post in the US.

This could be good, because the military is not encouraging alcohol, or bad, because we drive off-post, drink, drive on-post.

My opinion is that this is bad, and the military would be better off providing cheap bars on post with free shuttles for soldiers (like they did 20 years ago).

But we all have to live with the reality of tightening liberties.

re: McTX's 'undue imposition'...when I worked as a grocery clerk for a major chain many years ago I had to submit to drug testing as a condition of my employment. The testing was done two days a week at a single site on the other side of a large metropolitan area which meant either having access to a car or paying a non-trivial fare for a cab or taking a metro bus (2.5 hours either way with multiple transfers). Appointments were tight and you had little control over the time. I was lucky that I had no job at the time and had a full day to kill for my 15 minutes of urinary fame.

Not exactly easy for a single mother or a person who is working another job, but I guess as long as there are enough desperate people to fill the open positions no one who shapes HR policy is going to care if it is inconvenient or if qualified applicants are turned away because they don't have the time or the money to jump through HR's hoop.

"My opinion is that this is bad, and the military would be better off providing cheap bars on post with free shuttles for soldiers (like they did 20 years ago)."
Same thing happen at universities leading to students to going off campus to drink. And, then, having to find their way back without, hopefully, killing themselves or someone else.

Nous illustrates some of what I was getting at with "the costs, all of them" in my last comment. Getting specific and personal usually is more persuasive. I need to do that more when I write in support of my positions, I think.

In my very humble opinion, recreational use of drugs like marijuana don't present a reasonable likelihood of interfering with someone's ability to work as a librarian.

I completely agree with that. I would also agree with the above in the context of e.g. legal marijuana consumed by defense contractors. But that is an unlikely happenstance in the span of the remainder of my career, I think.

But weirder things have happened. I would think, anyway.

Moderation in all things, especially moderation ;).

I've been thinking about McT's points, and it actually explains a lot. I don't think people propose things so they can be assholes to other people, roads to hell being paved with good intentions and all that. But it is plausible that to argue that you want to avoid having the liability of drug users working. It doesn't really hold up on close analysis, but a lot of trials for negligence and liability hinge on whether the company took some steps rather than how effective those steps where, so I can see something like that being argued for in a CYA mode and instituted, making it harder to eliminate.

People tend to personalize inconvenience. Personally, I shouldn't have to pass through the TSA gauntlet when I fly--I have a thirty plus year record of being a model passenger. I shouldn't have to produce mountains of financial information to get a loan at a bank--my credit rating should be enough. Of course, there are counterpoints to each of these and many others I could name.

It's a rare operation that doesn't involve some kind of risk to someone, whether it's a paperwork error that results in some downstream screw-up or driving a vehicle or what have you. File clerking seems pretty benign, but I can show you multiple examples of people coming in at entry level who rise within the company, or move into jobs that have risk attendant to performance. An employer doesn't know who is going to move where in the out years. A one size fits all drug screen policy papers the file, as LJ notes. Whether such a policy holds up on close analysis is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

But it is plausible that to argue that you want to avoid having the liability of drug users working.

Liability depends on causation, and it would be awfully difficult to show a court that a librarian who left a book on the floor did so because s/he might have been taking drugs at the time the book was left on the floor, and that his/her failure to be tested resulted in his/her hiring, resulted in his/her sloppiness, etc.

In other words, liability isn't the reason for the policy. The causation for any one act of negligence is simply too tenuous to prove.

All kidding aside, I find little real disagreement with the ostensibly conservative position presented here that employers should screen for employees who present a risk profile vis a vis certain substances, though I find the degree of testing invasive to the individual and I'm a little surprised that those who I presumed (presumptive of me) would come down more on the side of a libertarian slant on this matter are pretty much resigned to the status quo ....
for practical reasons they have observed in the real world.

So, I suppose the next logical question for those in favor of so much testing is to ask to what degree and with what enthusiasm should prospective, current, and indeed former employees be protected from the risk-taking behavior of their employers, particularly using the agencies of government (OSHA comes to mind in the safety arena, as does the FAA in a slightly different sense)?

Unions would be another avenue for employees to collectively(!) prevent and curb risk-taking behavior by employers.

It's my sense, in the case of the FAA, that substance and alcohol abuse by pilot employees might not be as strictly enforced if not for the FAA "regulation" of airlines, particularly the small commuter airlines where pilots, for example, might not be to use various substances to stay the f*ck awake, but the airline rules nevertheless demand it.

should read:

"but the airlines nevertheless demand they stay awake for their shifts and the airlines balk and fight and pour money into lobbying to prevent stricter government regulation."

I dunno, a librarian does something really problematic (exposes himself to a kid, gets in a heated argument and threatens a patron, wears white after Labor Day), library is sued (because the person who did it doesn't have any assets to speak of, of course, cause he wouldn't be in a job where they were drug testing if he were rich) and the lawyer says 'what kind of systems did you have in place to try and prevent this sort of person from being hired?'. Witness on the stand says, "of course, no one can predict every possible problem, but we did have a policy of drug screening in addition to our interview process".

The fact that the effort is made is really all that is needed, and because we all know that drugs are bad things, the lawyer can't go to town on the library. It's not being able to prove causation from one act of negligence, it is to have the appearance of doing something.

File clerking seems pretty benign, but I can show you multiple examples of people coming in at entry level who rise within the company, or move into jobs that have risk attendant to performance. An employer doesn't know who is going to move where in the out years.

That would seem to be an argument against against screening entry-level applicants for employment. And in favor of screening candidates for promotion -- since, after all, tht way you catch those who don't acquire the problematic habit until after they have originally been hired. (Like maybe they couldn't afford a habit until they had a paycheck.)

But has anyone heard of a place which requires drug screening as a condition of promotion? Not a place that does pre-employment screening or constant drug tests, but one which does them just when someone is about to be promoted.

Whether such a policy holds up on close analysis is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

My thinking is that many employers don't bother with the close analysis in the first place. And if they did, the analysis could very well produce facts, the truth of which would have nothing to do with the beholder's eye.

People make bad calls all the time. I don't see why it's particularly contentious to propose that drug testing librarians is a waste of time, resources and money. I don't claim to know for sure, but short of a close analysis, that's where common sense leads me. That's where the eye of the beholder comes in - when you don't have a close analysis.

I'd add that making people pee in cups is a rather peculiar thing to do without good reason, so the burden of proof would land on the party proposing to do so, rather than the party questioning the necessity of it. That doesn't mean that I would bother to question the necessity of drug testing in all cases. It seems perfectly reasonable under a number of circumstances, just not all, certainly not for most librarians.

The real question is: should libertarians be made to pee in a cup?

Yes.

"should libertarians be made to pee in a cup?"

Of course, but to save money, at least two libertarians per one cup.

Incidentally, although my employer has not yet instituted mandatory drug-testing (being enlightened and all), we do get an annual pamphlet about how to recognize drug and alcohol addiction by staff and other lower-level employees. Every year I am horrified to realize, on reading the symptoms, that I have been deeply and destructively addicted to both alcohol and drugs (presumably the generic ones, since I can't afford brand-name) for most of my life. Reminds me of the little pamphlet we got after the weaponized Anthrax fun, where all the recognition signs boiled down to "flu-like symptoms". Jerome K. Jerome (Three Men in a Boat) was only a hundred-odd years ahead of his time, although I can't rule out that Pliny the Elder or someone of that ilk had not noticed it first.

I think the real question is:

If you submit a urine sample for employment, is it a wise choice to substitute a libertarian's pee in place of your own, or should one opt for the pee of an individual who inhabits another wing of the Republican Party, the religious Right?

Do principles show up in urine samples, having been consumed in such ferocious quantities that the body just can't absorb the pure nutrients?

Or maybe the second question in logical order after Slart's is: who is the fool who wants to demand a pee sample from a libertarian given the latter's probability of being armed?

Or worse, likely to quote a good half-hour of boilerplate from Ayn Rand in favor of withholding the precious fluid, thus boring to death the individual proffering the cup.

Calling all Bretts, calling all Bretts!

What happens if you run into a libertarian librarian?

Besides alliteration.

What happens if you run into a libertarian librarian?

she tells you to go buy your own damn books, ya lazy hippy.

So, she's an amazon as well.

Voila, and here she is, our libertarian librarian. Look what happens:

http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/10/mitt-romney-endorsement-of-the-day.html

I demand she submit to a written urine test.

And then we have the libertarian sh*theads, who forgo alliteration in favor of obliteration.

http://money.msn.com/politics/post.aspx?post=9c5331b5-72e8-4657-bccc-a3d84c72ff29

He must be on something and were he to apply for a job with me, I'd skip the testing and personally neuter the bug with a soldering iron.

He says this:

"We cut back, we're lean and mean. That's what the rest of the country has to do."

just after saying this about his mansion:

"The elevators are going in and they're preparing to put in the marble."

"We cut back, we're lean and mean. That's what the rest of the country has to do."

Public sector employment under Obama.

The country has done it's part.

Of course, that won't be enough for our thoughtful friend. He won't be happy until old folks are making the "tough choice" between eating and filling their prescriptions.

The way you know there isn't real class warfare in this country is the fact that nobody's lined that dude up against a wall yet.

"We cut back, we're lean and mean. That's what the rest of the country has to do."

for example, cutting funding for embassy security.

Maybe Darrell Issa and the Filthy Republican House Unamerican Committee of Clownish F*ckups just blew some CIA cover:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/10/11/wonder-why-were-not-hearing-more-about-the-gops-benghazi-witch-hunt/

I wonder to what extent the murderers of the American Ambassador and others were taking their cues, perchance orders, from the traitorous Republican Party's and Redrum efforts to ratf*ck their way into the Presidency.

The timing coincidence is suspect. Maybe Jack Welch can assign Joe Kernan to the story.

To be clear, for those who can't tell the difference between election year b*ullsh*t and jo*rn*lism, I'm merely speculating as a citizen lay journalist cum blog commenter, which also doesn't mean I get laid very often, though I'm happy to investigate the possibilities of that too.

Thank you, Countme-in. Why isn't car thief and arsonist Darrell Issa wearing an orange jumpsuit? And he's just one we know about.

So do right-wingers who think it's fine to drug-test prospective employees also think that everyone should be tested before they buy a gun? Because it seems to me that a drug-taker in possession of a lethal weapon is a lot more dangerous to society than a pothead librarian. Or would that be a terrible infringement of liberty?

Silly magistra, you don't have a right to a job like you do a gun. That's commie talk.

I suspect a perfect libertarian world would merge no-questions-asked gun shows and drug bazaars under one roof.

You could move from the 100-round clip booth to the 100-hit injectable booth with ease.

No doubt some entrepreneur would come up with the combination AK-47--Bong, for the hysterical sportsmen.

And what the heck, the local libraries could conduct job fairs at the same time on the same floor.

That way, the public librarians could have the full force of the armed, fascist State at the ready when they collect library fines from the armed, and high, citizenry.

Of course, the librarians would exhale a big cloud of pot smoke, burst into laughter and tell the deadbeat patron, "Hey man, just messin with ya. This thing's not even loaded. We can't remember where we put the ammo."

First off, I think jrudkis deserves a bronze star (no V device) for his position on the topic and actions on behalf of combat vets with a little Mary J in their systems.

"Further, drugs are subject to abuse without outward and visible signs of impairment. "

McTex, is this not a contradiction with your position that a librarian who smokes pot on Friday night might be slipping down the stairs at work on Monday morning as a result? I mean if drugs cause one to be so horribly uncoordinated then there should be outward signs, no? Like a lack of coordination? Which is it?

Is there any scientific proof that cannabis use increases the likelihood of the user - a user not smoking on the job - having an otherwise preventable accident? I think not.

However, if accident prevention/risk reduction is the goal then why not cause employees to undergo a battery of pre-employment reflex time and strength tests? Why not a battery of psychological tests that tease out an prospective employee's propensity for following instructions (especially saftey instructions)? Why not tests to select out those who do not handle stress well? Or those who are predisposed toward anger management issues or who have a prediliction for sexual harassment? Why not an IQ test? Surely stupid employees are more prone to accidents are other costly screw-ups than inteligent employees.

Surely no one can argue that an experienced forklift operator with a good employment history that smokes pot in the evening, but not on the job, is more of a liability than someone who never touches drugs, yet is stupid, uncoordinated and has latent anger/authority issues.

Drugs in the workplace is a red herring and testing for them is a wasteful, somewhat degrading, invasion of privacy; the efficacy of which is based on nothing more than some bizarre social conformity (certainly not on science) and the perceived need to show that there is effort, no matter how ineffectual, to be doing something to emeliorate a non-existant problem.

Agreed on the forklift issue. I just got my licence but anyone wo would let my drive one should be fired for gross negligence, although the worst drug I consume is a bottle of (French) cider per month (distributed over three days). ;-)

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