Thursday, January 27, 2011

Here's your Monday morning wedge, thin end first.

My new employer has a workplace drug and alcohol testing policy.

Doesnt sound too worrisome for anyone whos doing the right thing, right?

This means actual random workplace drug and alcohol testing oral swab I suppose.  Its a bit like being a sports competitor at a major event, or being pulled over for an RBT.

Personally it doesnt affect me; I have no intention of fronting for work pissed, and the only drugs I take apart from alcohol are caffeine and paracetamol the latter generally as a response to too much of the former.  However, I think there are some philosophical issues that this sort of thing raises.

Ill be the first to fully acknowledge the right of the employer to have a fit-for-duty employee when they clock in.  It doesnt matter if they are operating heavy machinery or just fully productive in an office, the employer is paying the wages and they have a right to expect the employee is 100% on the ball.  However, how does that interface with the issue of, for instance, cannabis or party drugs?  These can linger in the system for literally weeks and months.  So if the employee in question enjoys a spliff on the weekend or drops an E at a party, its still very much in their system on the Monday morning when the narcs bust them, even though theyre long over any possible performance impairment.

Does any company have a right to impose these sort of value judgements on people?  I have no interest in drugs myself, but I refuse to believe that a couple of cones on a weekend is going to be the death of anyone, and its their own damn business as long as they keep it to themselves.  (My attitude will change here if they try to do stupid stuff like drive while toking, but if they want to blaze up in their backyard then I say go for it.)  But, under the testing scheme as I understand it, theyre gone a million when they front on Monday.

This is, in my opinion, the thin edge of the wedge, and a dangerous precedent.  Im sure that some company talking head (and I have to go and be lectured at for an hour next week by one re this little gem of a policy) will argue that thats as good as the testing is, and that it also serves as a gauge as to the reliability of that persons character.  But hang on a minute, isnt that the company trying to dictate morals and actions to me outside company time?  Im very much of the opinion that while Im being paid then I do as required, but when I clock out, my thoughts, feelings and actions are mine and mine alone.  If the company feels and wishes otherwise, they can pay me for that time too.

What if I drive like an idiot to and from work?  Does the company have the right to say they are spending a lot of money training me, and that I have an obligation to protect that investment and not get myself killed?

What if I decide to take up freeface rock climbing, sky diving or something else dangerous for a sport?  Do I have to get the permission of the company to do that, as theyve got a vested interest in me turning up next week?

Hmm, Im buying a new car.  Am I required to buy one with curtain airbags, and only a bright colour, to ensure its as safe as possible?  Wouldnt want the resource injured and unable to work, would we?

When will my diet be subject to employer control to ensure Im not going to have a heart attack, and Im required to attend the company doctor monthly for health and fitness checks, with any “recommendations” mandatory as a condition of continuing employment?

Gee... does being an employee grant the company the right to dictate my thoughts regarding other issues that might affect it... like which government gets elected, or what industry laws get passed?

You see where Im going with this?  Yes, its a long way from the perfectly reasonable expectation that I wont stagger back in for the afternoon after drinking lunch to telling me who to vote for at the next election, but its the same slope, just further down the path.  How quickly we get there depends on how well we let that slope get greased.

And that worries me, because there seems to be no shortage of people around the place with no sense of proportion or scale.  Just look at what HR is today, and what do you want to bet that HR started as a basic and entirely reasonable concept of ensuring fair treatment?  Here we are 20 years later with HR being a subject regarded by most people as somewhere between a joke and an atrocity, staffed by Catbert, and existing solely to ensure that in the event of someone getting the shaft, the employee is very much going to be the shaftee.

Drug and alcohol testing?  Prepare for shaftage.  And possibly mandatory bimonthly colonoscopies.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be aware that all comments are moderated so if you're a scumbag spammer then I suggest not wasting your time. Your spam will not be seen by anyone.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.