Guidelines for drug tests

ROBERT Ellis Smith uses words like ``intrusion,'' ``indignity,'' and ``mania'' when he talks about drug testing in the workplace. He says the atmosphere comes close to the ``Red scare'' of the 1950s, when US Sen. Joseph McCarthy and others saw communists lurking behind every lamppost and infiltrating most government offices.

A lawyer by training, Mr. Smith is editor-publisher of the monthly Privacy Journal. His newsletter keeps people up to date on current litigation and legislation in the privacy area.

If there is to be drug testing on the job, there must be clear guidelines and limits, Smith says. These suggested guidelines for urinalysis appear in the Privacy Journal:

1.Because of the controversy about the tests' reliability, no one should be disciplined or fired for refusing to take such tests.

2.Tests should be conducted only when there is suspicion of drug abuse by an individual or a segment of the work force.

3.Any test result used to affect a person's status must be followed by a separate test to confirm the original result.

4.Testing programs should be geared to detect impairment on the job, not off-duty conduct.

5.Tests should be conducted with dignity and respect for privacy.

6.Each person must be fully informed of the method and the results and be given a fair opportunity to rebut the findings.

7.There must be strict accountability for the chain of custody of specimens.

8.Confirmed evidence of drug use should, as far as possible, lead to treatment, not automatic firing.

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