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Physical Privacy at Work: Discussion


Currently, a great number of the corporate society is undertaking drug test on their employees. In some industries drug testing is carried out as a pre-condition for employment consideration, while in others random drug test is carried out on employees to prove their innocence (Schramm, 2005). This practice has seen many cooperates maximize profits through minimizing economic hazards probable by employees. Corporate such as Wal-Mart requires that a prospective employee should undergo drug test as a condition precedent.

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The rational for drug testing of employees is alleged to be that it ensures maximum risk from employees (Volkert, 2005). Thus, drug test is done presumably on the grounds that it ensures an employees safety and that of others (Volkert, 2005). Whether drug testing of employees reduces risks, while at the same time increasing safety of a work place, is not here nor there as there is empirical data to prove this assertion (Halbert, 2006). The point of consideration revolves around whether on the other hand it is ethical for employers such as Wal-Mart to require drug test for its employees, while on the other, whether workplace drug test violates employees right to privacy (Halbert, 2006).

No wonder, it is acknowledged that the aspect of ethical issues involved in employers conducting work place drug test is complicated by and large by the employee’s right to privacy (Halbert, 2006). It can be argued that save for considerations such as effectiveness as well as legality, employers options, as far as work place drug testing is concerned, is vehemently limited by employees rights to privacy. This can be waived in sensitive jobs where their potential danger of harm to others ( This exclusion is crucial since some occupations such as train engineers, truck drivers and airline pilots among others require alertness as well as sobriety (Volkert, 2005).

Nevertheless, it is important to note drug test for such occupations does not guarantee safety. More over even without such exception, there has never been serious reported cases of drug related impairment in those safety- sensitive occupations (Halbert, 2006). For instance there has never been commercial airline accident associated to a pilots drug abuse (Schramm, 2005). Workplace drug testing therefore can be said to be in violation of privacy rights of an employee.

Back to the main point, in circumstances that there is absence of a state’s or country’s, statute stating otherwise, and the terms of employment subjects an employee into drug test, then in so far as the terms of that employment are concerned it can be argued that drug testing would not amount to violation of privacy rights of the employee (Volkert, 2005). Therefore it can be argued that except under the aforementioned situations employee drug testing is a violation of privacy rights in addition to being unethical (Schramm, 2005). Why would a person argue that way? A justification for this school of thought places a corporate such as Wal-Mart in total violation employee’s privacy rights by conducting drug test.

Even though this company expects employees not to be high or drug in the work place it does not have the right to require workers to prove their innocence via taking a drug test as such act constitutes to invasion of privacy (Volkert, 2005). Consider for instance laboratory test on urine. Urinalysis shows not only drug presence but reveals also a number of other physical as well as medical conditions, such as genetic inclination to diseases and or pregnancy (Halbert, 2006). Thus urinalysis can be for the purpose of establishing presence of drugs therefore extraneous revelation would be an invasion of a person’s privacy. Secondly it is illogical to co-relate work impairment/job performance with drug use since a positive drug test is an indicator of past ‘drug use’ by the victim. As such, it is not possible to determine occasional drug users from habitual drug users.

Wal-Mart introduced random drug testing for its employees in 2008 after perceiving economy down turn. As a means of down sizing its employees to counter economic down turn effects, if offered its reasons as being “To improve their image”. Going by the considerations I have already outlined Wal-Mart’s reason is inadequate, since it is not based on possible harm to the live of others nor does it constitute the legal aspect under the employment terms (Halbert, 2006).

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At the time of the inception of the program first and foremost employers were not allowed ample time to get clean on their own, in addition there was no substance abuse program in place for those who failed the test. Never the less, in Stephanie D. Baughman V. Wal-Mart stores, Incl. case No. 01-C-260-3, while affirming the finding of the circuit court the Court of Appeal held “Drug testing will not be found to be violative of public policy grounded right to privacy where it is conducted by an employer based upon reasonable good faith objective suspicion of an employees drug usage or while an employees job responsibility involves public safety of the safety of others” syllabus point 2, Twigg V Herculescorp, 185 155, 406 SE 2d 52 1990


Drug testing of employees by employers can and should only be ethically justified in circumstances where the former are involved in highly sensitive occupations with a possibility of causing harm to others. Thus anything outside this sphere is tantamount to invasion of privacy of an individual.


Drug Testing in the Workplace.

Halbert, Terry, and Elaine Ingulli. Law & Ethics in the Business Environment. West, 2006.

Schramm, Jennifer. “Privacy at Work.” HR Magazine. 2005.

Volkert, Lora. “Workplace Privacy? Laws give employers wide scope to snoop.” Idaho Business Review, Boise. 2005.

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