One of the prerogatives of an employer is the hiring of company personnel. During the hiring process, prospective employees undergo procedures, such as drug screening, in order to determine their fitness and competency in rendering their services to the company. When they are hired as employees, the employer would then again require them to undergo random drug testing from time to time, for after all, an employee’s qualification is not only during the hiring stage but must be throughout his employment.
This holds true to the United States Navy which recently imposed a zero-tolerance drug policy. (http://www. defenselink. mil/specials/drugawareness/usnnews03a. html) The U. S Navy imposes a mandatory drug-test on its sailors, and those who tested positive of drug use are subjected to disciplinary actions, including discharge from service. So a question now arises in the mind of the employee whether this drug testing is violating his right to privacy. The employer might answer the same in the negative contending that such drug testing or screening is only for safety reasons.
In order to answer the said issue, there are two schools of thought which should be considered. One is the Utilitarian theory, and the second is the Deontological theory. Under the utilitarian theory, while it is true that drug testing violates one’s right to privacy, if it would benefit the company, the workers, and the employee himself, then it is justifiable. Under the utilitarian model, an ethical decision is a decision that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. (Jones, et. al. 150)
A utilitarian sees random drug testing as ethical because more employees and customers are protected from accidents caused by drug-using employees than those who are angered by having to submit to random drug test. (Gomez, et. al. 104) Thus, it may permit subordination of the rights of a few individual if a greater aggregation of good results. (Linzer 41) However, this theory clashes with the deontological theory which justifies action as right because of a past relationship that antedates the present action. (Schermerhorn, Jr.
, et. al, 36) Under this approach, it is believed that each person has fundamental rights that should be protected and respected. A decision is unethical if it deprives an individual of fundamental human rights. (Gomez, et. al, 103) While the utilitarian theory determines the present goodness of an act because of its future consequences, the deontological theory emanates from the established relationship. These two ethical theories create an ethical dilemma. When two obligations conflict, the outcome is a deadlock.
If one would follow one ethical principle, it would offer possible benefits but at the same time violates the other. (Schermerhorn, Jr. , et. al 36) So, in order to solve this dilemma, Ross, W. D introduced the concept of pluralism into the deontological theory. It offers some leeway in decision making and an opportunity to use discretion in weighing priorities among prima facie duties. (as cited in Linzer 41) According to one author, since an employer-employee relationship is contractual, certain areas in an employee’s life remain their own private concern and no employer has the right to invade them.
(DesJardins and Duska 119) But this principle is not absolute. The right to privacy has limitations. Since drug testing is a means for obtaining information, the information sought must be relevant to the contract in order for the drug testing not to violate privacy. Moreover, the purpose of the drug test must be to prevent harm to the employees. In such a case, the procedure my over-ride the obligation to respect an employee’s right to privacy. (DesJardins and Duska 125) Relevant consideration is whether an employee is producing as expected.
It is not required that the performance must be optimal, or at a high level. What is required is that he is still able to perform his assigned functions well despite his drug use. As for the sailor’s of the US Navy, they are required to be at all times ready to perform their job in protecting their country, and it also their duty not to put their shipmates at risk, hence, a higher level of performance is required of them. In conclusion, while it is true that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. Such right is not infallible.
Drug testing is not a form of punishment but it is a way to prevent harm and avoid injuries in the workplace. Although it may seem, that the authors are following the utilitarian approach in this case, still the deontological theory is not violated, for what the employers do is simply to conduct drug tests to regulate the use of drugs of his employees that it may not affect the latter’s performance, and not to absolutely restrict the use of the same. Drug tests is also done only when it is relevant or related to the job, and not done capriciously, whimsically, and arbitrarily.
Works Cited DeJardin, Joseph and Ronald Duska, Ethics in the Workplace Selected Readings in Business Ethics, 1996 Gomez-Mejia, Luis R. ,et. al. , Management: People, Performance, Change, 2008 Jones, Gareth R. et. al, Contemporary Management, 2000 Linzer, Norman, Resolving Ethical Dilemma in Social Work Practice, 1999 Ross, W. D, The Right and the Good, 1930 Resolving Ethical Dilemma in Social Work Practice, 1999 Schermerhorn, John Jr. R, et. al Organizational Behavior 9th Edition. http://www. defenselink. mil/specials/drugawareness/usnnews03a. html