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Drug testing in the workplace: the allure of management technologies

Elaine Draper (University of California, Berkeley)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 June 1998


Discusses US use of drug testing in the workplace, screening employees for smoking, AIDS, genetic traits and reproductive hazards. Attributes this to the costs employers face in insurance, litigation and compensation. Points out that the purpose of drug testing is to circumvent management responsibility for: accidents in the workplace, stress, bad management practices, and disregarding health and safety initiatives. Acknowledges that the tests are harmful and indefensible. Reports that 81 per cent of members of the American Management Association in 1996 conducted drug testing. Claims that screening is the alternative to monitoring – that is screening out individuals who are seen as high risk in some way – yet that misses the point – the focus should be on making hazardous working conditions safe. Indicates that companies may use drug testing as a means of deterring drug users from gravitating towards their organization. Mentions that workplace‐induced stress can lead to substance abuse and that, therefore it is management driven, rather than being a problem the worker brings to the workplace. Quotes a number of company physicians who object to policing drug use. Indicates that drug testing has diverted attention away from health and safety issues and hazardous working conditions.



Draper, E. (1998), "Drug testing in the workplace: the allure of management technologies", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 18 No. 5/6, pp. 64-106.




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