WORKPLACE SAVVY

Drug testing law would cost too much


Published: Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 30, 2012 at 9:24 p.m.

Q: Last week you stated that private employers don’t do random drug testing.

Are you aware that when doing business with the state of Florida, there are laws requiring employers to do exactly that?

We’re a private employer doing construction projects for FDOT and FAA. Any drivers who use certain types of equipment are required to submit to a drug testing program including quarterly random drug testing.

State employees should submit to the same or more stringent drug testing because they’re serving the public.

A: Yes, I’m aware of everything you describe. And, judging from my inbox, I didn’t do a good job last week explaining what’s different about random drug testing done by private employers — for example your company — and what the new law entails. Or, why I’m in favor of the former, and oppose the latter.

First, Florida already has an excellent drug-free workplace statute, 440.102, which covers all state employees, and offers private employers workers comp insurance discounts if they choose to implement it.

While the statute has specific testing requirements, random drug testing is not among them; unless the position meets specific criteria — i.e., public safety or controlled substances.

Some agencies (FAA, FDOT and others with federal ties) have additional requirements beyond the statute. Employees in those agencies are subject to random testing requirements.

When the state asks private employers doing business with them to conduct random testing, it’s simply to match what’s required of their own employees who do similar work or use similar equipment.

I like Florida statute 440.102 and advocate employers to implement it. Doing so saves money and results in a safer, healthier and more productive workplace.

I’m also in favor of random testing when it serves a purpose, whether it’s to meet a requirement (your example), prevent theft or ensure customer safety.

But, in my opinion, this law is too broad. I doubt a private employer could afford to incur this cost for such uncertain purpose.

What problem does this law solve? State employee corruption? Unaccountability? Waste? Disregard for public safety? If so, how is casting such a wide net a good solution?

Instead of using the “shotgun approach,” which is not cost-effective, I suggest we expand the pool of employees already subject to random testing, to include, for example, those who:

  • Manage budgets that are more than $500,000.
  • Make decisions affecting children and the disabled.
  • Drive a state vehicle.
  • Have authority to issue a prison sentence.
  • Or any other criteria. Really, as long as it serves a purpose or solves a problem.

This is what I figure random drug testing would cost taxpayers:

Number of state employees: 114,000

Number of random drug tests: 11,400 tests quarterly, which would equal 45,600 tests yearly. At $35 per test, that equals $1,596,000 a year.

Add to that: One hour away from work for every random drug test. At $19 per hour average, that equal $866,400.

Eva’s estimate: $2,462,400 a year to carry out random drug testing of state employees.

Access this column with hotlinks to articles, laws and support material at evadelrio.com. Eva Del Rio is a human resources consultant and business owner. Send questions to askeva@hrproondemand.com or find her on Facebook.

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