Governor Rick Scott has issued Executive Order Number 11-58 compelling all state agencies under his control to implement a comprehensive drug testing program: all job applicants must undergo pre-employment testing. All current employees - regardless of what they do - must be randomly tested every quarter. Because drugs stay in the body for hours and even days after they are used, the governor is attempting to control every waking minute of the state workforce. Not even commercial drivers are subject to such stringent monitoring.
There is no question that drug testing can play an important role in a comprehensive safety program. For workers whose jobs put themselves or others at risk, random testing can be smart policy. For employers struggling with a rampant drug culture, drug testing often makes sense. [I remember discussing this issue at a workers comp seminar some years ago. The owner of a roofing company said, "I could never implement drug testing. Half my guys would fail!" (I made an immediate note to alert the underwriting team.)]
Even as we acknowledge that drug testing is appropriate under certain circumstances, we must recognize its limitations. Testing science itself, while significantly more effective than it was a decade ago, is not 100 percent reliable. The producing and subsequent custody of urine samples is at best embarrassing and at worst an invasion of privacy. Drug testing does send a message, but there are times and circumstances - such as now in Florida state government - when this message is demoralizing and counter-productive.
Within weeks of the issuance of the executive order, the ACLU sued to put a stop to the program.
Ideology and Policy
The testing of all employees, without even considering job function or safety exposure, crosses the line between best practice and rigid ideology. This policy does not stem from "business necessity" nor does it take into account individual freedom and the right to privacy. Using the governor's logic, you could argue that everyone in America should, for one reason or another, be tested for illegal drugs. This is bad policy and, to put it bluntly, unAmerican. Here's hoping the courts toss out this executive order and restore some light to the Sunshine state.