Challenges of prescription drugs in the workplace

A particular issue in today’s society is prescription drugs in the workplace – and as we’ve mentioned previously, there are legal battles currently in progress between employers and former-employees, where individuals have been fired for having prescription drugs in their system while at work. The employers claim that it affects the individuals ability to work, whereas the employee claims that testing for prescription drugs in an invasion of privacy.

Increasingly, organizations are struggling to find ways to address the reliance of Americans on powerful prescription drugs for pain, that may indicate that many of these employees report to work with the drugs in their systems. But issues of ‘security’ and ‘privacy’ seem to be pitted against each other, as employers try to maintain safe work environments through employment drug testing but employees cite privacy concerns and contend that they should not be fired for taking legal medications, especially if injuries are sustained on the job .

The rate of employees testing positive for prescription opiates rose by more than 40 percent from 2005 to 2009, and by 18 percent in 2009 alone, and workers tested for drugs after accidents were four times more likely to have opiates in their systems than those tested before being hired. Where do we draw the line? If someone is injured at work, and so needs medication in order to complete their duties, what now? Should they be forced into the choice between working without medication or losing their job?

Drug testing has become an important part of the workplace, and the majority of businesses enforce testing rules, especially when the employees are working in a particular environment – such as working with machinery. Many employers, organizations and individuals will be following the lawsuits with great interest, to see whether it is the employee or the employer that gets the benefit of the doubt.


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