Scalped

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New at Reason: Jacob Sullum takes a pair of scissors to hair testing for drug use.

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  1. I said this on another post: I don’t think it has a damn thing to do with “job performance.” They are looking for sheep. If Anonymous refused to pee in a cup on demand, then obviously Anonymous has too much self-respect to be a member of our Corporate Family. It’s like hazing for a fraternity or sorority: if you won’t allow us to humiliate you in the nake of “friendship,” then you’re too independent to be in our group.

  2. That’s “NAME of friendship.”

  3. It’s suprising the look you recieve when you “just say no” to drug testing. One HR rep asked me why I refused the drug test and after I explained the Bill of Rights and a citizens right to privacy they do tend to look like deer in the headlights. Of course they try to push the insurance staistics (which I understand is B.S.) I believe if you are injured at work you have to take one for workman’s comp(in Cali at least). Besides I do not know any working functional drug addicts,(no prescription abusers in the above statement) although I do know many recreational users.

  4. The worst part of urinalysis is that the bad drugs (coke, meth, E, etc.) are detectable for only a couple of days after use. MJ has the longest detection time and is the least objectionable.

  5. I’m completely bald. Will they be pulling hair off my nutsack? Do drugs show up on pubes?

  6. Balzac-
    If you were innocent, you’d have hair.

    It would be very interesting if, somehow, every single worker in the US could be tested on the same day. Imagine what would happen to our economy if a quarter or so of all employees were fired and imprisoned overnight!

  7. A few years ago, I worked for a mall-chain of record stores that started requiring drug tests for new hires. God knows “drug free” automatically comes to mind when thinking about record store clerks, doesn’t it? We had to let go four perfectly competent, pleasant new hires because they failed for pot, and finally ended up hiring a jackass on probation just because the manager knew he’d pass. I’m curious as to whether that policy is still around.

  8. The point of these tests is that the subject cannot alter the evidence, but I think it is interesting that many of the techniques being used for drug testing (and verifying identity too) retrieve information that the actual subject cannot even practically *access* himself.

    I don’t know if “invasive” is the word, but it is odd that people are being required to submit information about themselves that they don’t even know themselves, or have an easy way to verify/contest, without third party labs or lawyers.

    Innocent people know who they are and what drugs they do but how many people are in a position to say:

    – No, that’s not my DNA sequence!
    – No, that hair follicle does NOT show cocaine!
    – No, that’s not my retina!

    Even fingerprints are not readily identifiable by their actual owner.

    These tests automatically elevate the burden of the simple questions at hand to the level of an all-out legal battle.

  9. I’m inclined to agree with Jen’s sheep comment.

    But there is one upside to drug testing: it reduces the labor pool, thus increasing wages.

  10. JC —

    Drug testing costs money, thus decreasing wages for workers or costing consumers more in goods or services.

    The buck gets passed beyond Truman’s desk, I’d bet.

  11. These new standards were pushed by the drug testing industry lobby. The accuracy is irrelevant, job performance is irrelevant, the profit the industry makes is very relevant.

  12. With the pre-employment whiz quiz, it costs more than $70,000 to weed out each drug-using applicant. My wife’s in HR and she shudders to think what the hair test will cost (and how much more difficult it will be to find competent people who have been clean for three months).

  13. Want to know how bogus this whole thing is?

    When I went for the drug test to get the job I have now, I lined out big sections of the language on the waiver form they made you sign, gave the minimum possible amount of urine, flushed the toilet (though you weren’t supposed to) “by accident/reflex,” and on my way out the door told the whole waiting room, “OK, I know I tested clean. Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.”

    Three weeks later, the drug tests had not yet come back despite daily calls from the HR director (wonder what happened). Since I actually did show up and pee, I got the benefit of the doubt and they hired me. Proof that all they’re looking for is submission to the arbitrary invasion of your privacy.

    Asked the HR director the other day if she had ever got back the initial drug test (no sweat because I’ve passed the facility test since then, too). She said no, they never got it.

    I can afford to monkey-wrench this system since I’ve never, ever, to the best of my knowledge, TOUCHED anything stronger than a glass of wine, I don’t smoke… hell, I hardly DANCE. lol

  14. What I find interesting about drug testing is that the drug of choice for most people(alcohol)
    is really not in the equation. In my time in the workforce,I can say the number of my fellow empoyees that come to work stoned is so small. that to me it is insignificant. On the other hand the number of people that come to work hungover is another story altogether. I am fortunate to work for a company that does not do drug screening (preemployment or otherwise)so this is not an issue for me, but the right to privacy is I have turned down 3 job opportunities do to the drug screening issue,and stated that when I turned down the job.

  15. Jennifer:
    {It would be very interesting if, somehow, every single worker in the US could be tested on the same day. Imagine what would happen to our economy if a quarter or so of all employees were fired and imprisoned overnight!}

    Unintended consequence. “Gee, whiz. You mean all these perfectly good employees are recreational drug users? And it doesn’t really affect their job performance? And drugs haven’t destroyed their lives? Why in hell are we wasting all that money and manpower on the war on drugs, then?”

  16. mike,

    I’ll put the sarcasm flag on next time.

    You don’t have to convince me of the money-waste, but the costs are typically covered by reducing the amount of interviewing and competence testing (those things cost money, too). Drug testing is ultimately deleterious to everyone except the drug-testing industry, but when you get down to the selfish individual level, when the individual is only concerned about his short-term prospects of getting a paycheck, the stupid non-user thinks he’s got an advantage over the intelligent recreational user. It’s the illusion of advantage; illusion matters to both the employer and the potential employee. Just another placebo, but part of the placebo-effect is high cost.

  17. why don’t we do a hair screen on the members of congress, first thing Monday morning? They are public servants and I’d kinda like to know, y’know.

  18. howdt, I’d pay money to a halfway decent campaign that advocated that.

  19. Speedwell,
    that is an awesome story. I am going to do the same thing from now on, I have also never done any drugs so I will have no problem when called on my behaviour, and I am going to tell everyone I know the story.

    I have for some years now always signed the back of checks well below where it sais not to sign below. An IRS agent told me that the directions to not sign below the line were to help the IRS. The checks always go through with no problem and I have the illusion that I am fucking with the IRS.

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