University Business - July 2006 - (Page 33)

HUMAN RESOURCES To Test or Not to Test? Institutions should consider expanding their drug-testing practices. Here's why. By Carol Patton I N PREPARATION FOR THIS drinkers are absent from work four to month's column on best practices for eight times more often than those without employee and pre-employment drug a problem, while drug users miss an aver- testing, human resource departments at age of five days per month. Likewise, 38 more than 25 colleges and universities percent to 50 percent of all workers' com- nationwide were contacted. Many re- pensation claims relate to substance abuse. sponded, stating that their school did Drug users are also three times more likely not drug test employees beyond the U.S. to use medical benefits compared to other Department of Transportation mandate. employees, and 80 percent steal from their The Omnibus Transportation Employee employer to support their habit. Testing Act of 1991 requires all employers T h e Substance Abuse and Mental to drug test transportation workers who Health Services Administration revealed perform safety-sensitive functions, such more startling statistics with its 2004 Na- as employees whose jobs require them to tional Survey on Drug Use and Health IHEs bury their have a commercial driver's license or oper- : Eight heads in the sand and ate motor vehicles that weigh more than million full-time workers, age 26 or older, 26,001 pounds, transport hazardous mate- reported being heavy alcohol users. An- don't even entertain rials, or carry 15 passengers or more. other 9.5 million full-time employees, age the thought of a faculty Yet, the same scenario doesn't hold 18 or older, reported using illicit drugs true in the private sector. A March survey in the past month. Alcohol is also a con- drug-testing program. conducted by the Society for Human Re- tributing factor in 39 percent of all work- Wayne Hovland, Aurico Reports source Management found that 84 percent related traffic crashes, states the Occupa- of the 454 employers contacted said they tional Safety and Health Administration. something like, `We are not going to talk conduct pre-employment drug testing; 39 To be fair, let's examine the other side. about that,' or `We are not interested in percent do random drug testing. If drug testing is conducted in a vac- doing that.' I have heard it said that fac- So why the discrepancy? Are college uum, it can be perceived as oppressive and ulty would not put up with it. campuses considered safer environments a way to weed out undesirables, leading than corporate campuses? Or, is drug test- to a poor work environment, says Elena TESTING WHYS AND WHY NOTS ing just considered an invasion of privacy? Carr, director of Working Partners for There are plenty of reasons to drug test. Some of these schools were asked the an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace, During the last decade, federal and non- same questions, but none really offered a U.S. Department of Labor program. profit organizations have published hun- any answers. As vice president of Drug In such situations, she says, drug testing dreds of sobering facts about the impact Testing Services at Aurico Reports, Wayne is considered more of a policing function of drugs and alcohol on the job. Hovland runs into the same problem rather than a program that focuses on em- According to Drug Free Pennsylvania, every time his drug screening company ployee safety or health. the annual cost of substance abuse in the contacts institutions of higher education. Carr also points to many organizations workplace for U.S. employers is $140 They bury their heads in the sand that function well with a zero-tolerance billion due to lost productivity, absentee- and don't even entertain the thought of a ism, accidents, medical claims, and theft. faculty drug testing program, says Hov- Carol Patton, a Las Vegas-based freelance writer, Pennsylvania workers who are problem land. When I bring it up, they will say specializes in covering human resources issues. July 2006 | 33 HRsrc706.indd 33 6/21/06 3:00:26 PM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - July 2006

College Index
Advisory Board
Company Index
Editor's Note
People Watch
Sense of Place
Stats Watcch
Human Resources
Future Shock
Money Matters
Community Colleges
Diamond in the Mudd
Higher Ed at the Crossroads
Property Values
The President Next Door
Good Medicine
The Outs (and Ins) of Facility Management
Business Technology
What's New
Calendar of Events
Direct Connect
End Note

University Business - July 2006