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pre employment background check/drug test

Has anyone here ever had to wait longer than a week to get results back of an both of these tests?  The drug test is a urine test, so it should be pretty quick.  It's been a week since the drug test, and probably almost 2 weeks since the start of the background check, and I still have not gotten the go ahead to put in my 2 weeks at the place i'm at now.  I'm starting to get freaked out, but there should be nothing for me to worry about.  Anyone else have to wait a while before everything went through?

grover
Friday, August 06, 2004

sounds like they hadn't decided to hire you yet before having you submit to the tests.  Good luck.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

well i got the offer and everything and signed on...so they said they were just waiting for everything to come in...I think the background check is done by the company that is contracting the company I want to work for, that may be causing some delay

grover
Friday, August 06, 2004

I'm sure either the request or the results are just sitting on someone's desk, and they haven't gotten to it.  Two to three weeks isn't all that odd for something that has to be contracted out like that, but maybe check with HR and ask them when you might expect to start, for your "planning purposes."

Bob
Friday, August 06, 2004

if its a large company- you may be just waiting for hr to catch up.

why not call them and see where the process is?

MikeG
Friday, August 06, 2004

Yeah, i've been on their ass calling practically every day.  I just really want out of my present place, and this job looks awesome, especially since i'm still only 3 months out of college.  Thanks for the encouragement though

grover
Friday, August 06, 2004

It's summer and lots of people are on vacation. It's quite likely the paperwork is just sitting on someone's desk waiting for them to return. There could be a delay at the processing lab, at the company HR office, the company security office or the office that is hiring you. Be patient.

old_timer
Friday, August 06, 2004

or you could be hopped up on goofballs with a long criminal record.... either or.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

Just got the call..tested positive for goofballs

grover
Friday, August 06, 2004

Let me guess that you're an American in the US of A? 

Just to go offtopic for a moment: To the rest of the world this seemingly accepted fact that corporations do drug testing seems simply bizarre - in Canada extremely few organizations do drug testing, most certainly not as a condition of employment, nor as an ongoing thing. The idea that Mother Corporation makes you piss in a bottle to prove your off-hours cleanliness strikes me as bizarre, and absolutely opposed to the freedom ideals that form the basis of American society. The premise is that if someone is busy sniffing lines or hitting a bong every night with a harem of hookers, that is immaterial unless it demonstratably affects their quality of work (and even then the only important aspect is quality of work, which could equally be affected by an addition to late night infommericals, sloth, disaffectedness, etc).

It just seems hard to rationalize the freedoms that Americans espouse, with this draconian war on drugs nonsense.

Back to your regularly scheduled television...

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 06, 2004

> in Canada extremely few organizations do drug testing, most certainly not as a condition of employment

Yes, apparently it's contrary to Canadian Human Rights legislation: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/legislation_policies/alcohol_drug_testing-en.asp

Christopher Wells
Friday, August 06, 2004

You're right Dennis. Our freedoms were not snatched away wholesale. We gave them up an inch at a time. It started with a couple celebrated cases of airline pilots or oil tanker captains being drunk on duty and creating havoc. Public demand (read: media sensationalism) forced politicians to pass statutes that said people in highly sensitive positions had to be checked.

Then it was train conductors and bus drivers. Then it was government employees in critical jobs. Then it was all government workers. Then burger flippers, retail clerks,  ditch diggers, librarians and lastly engineers and programmers. That's right, it took longer to get to professional employees than the lower echelons. Now it's pretty much everyone.

And it's not just drug tests, employers use these laws as cover to check into all aspects of your past, credit history, medical history, personal matters, everything is available if they demand it. You can deline of course, but then you don't get the job.

old_timer
Friday, August 06, 2004

Dennis, you're right on the money. What's even scarier is that we accept it without even a murmur. It's an egregious violation of privacy, not to mention we have an Amendment to the Constitution ("secure in their person and papers") that prevents the Government from doing this sort of thing. But we sell our freedoms so short here nowadays, with the Patriot Act and this alleged "War on Terror."

Ben Franklin said it best: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."



Michael E. (crawling into flame-retardant gear...)

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

Companies don't care about off-hours drug use per se, it's about the fact that you deliberately choose to break the law and (often) commit felonies.  So what other laws might you choose to break? Embezzling? Theft?

Bob
Friday, August 06, 2004



Uh... the Constitution protects private citizens from the government, not private citizens from each other.

KC
Friday, August 06, 2004

>Companies don't care about off-hours drug use per se...
They do it for the insurance discount. They couldn't care if the test involved balancing 20 plates in the air and doing some mime-rope trick, they want their discount.

Peter
Friday, August 06, 2004

I consented to a drug test for one job, but I'll never do it again. Largely on principle (it made me feel like a slab of meat rolling through a packing plant) but also because of what the requirement revealed about the employer, which was later verified by experience with them.

The job turned out to be ok, but the mgmt was ethically questionable.

Jeff Kotula
Friday, August 06, 2004

Bob wrote: "Companies don't care about off-hours drug use per se, it's about the fact that you deliberately choose to break the law and (often) commit felonies.  So what other laws might you choose to break? Embezzling? Theft?"

In many states, including New York, possession of a small amount of cannabis is considered a violation (on the same level as a parking ticket), punishable by a fine on the order of $100.  Not even a misdemeanor, and certainly not a felony.

I certainly wouldn't want to hire someone deeply involved in something like large-scale heroin trade, but to "no hire" someone because they used cannabis a couple weeks ago is like rejecting someone for admitting to occasionally overrunning the parking meter.

Anon
Friday, August 06, 2004

" They couldn't care if the test involved balancing 20 plates in the air and doing some mime-rope trick..."

I actually did the mime-in-a-box trick when asked why I wanted to leave my current employer, but I didn't get the job.

John
Friday, August 06, 2004

"Embezzling? Theft?"

Oh, I see -  "Guilty until proven innocent."

"Consitution"

That's what I said - the Bill of Rights protects us from the Government.

Now, for the record, I grew up with looney-tune alcoholics in my family, so I have a dim view of people who indulge in chemically-induced mind alteration, but if they want to do that in the privacy of their own homes on their off-time, what do I care?

I can see checking into whether or not you have a criminal record, but drug tests and credit checks as a condition of employment are ludicrous invasions of privacy.

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

"they want to do that in the privacy of their own homes on their off-time, what do I care?"

They care because illegal drug use extends into the workplace.  They either come to work high, or shoot up on the job, or sit around not getting anything done because they're suffering withdrawal.

Bob
Friday, August 06, 2004

Nice troll Bob

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 06, 2004

Hardly a troll.  Let me know how to conclusively test for late-night talk show addiction and chronic relationship problems and I'll filter out those applicants, too.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

"They care because illegal drug use extends into the workplace.  They either come to work high, or shoot up on the job, or sit around not getting anything done because they're suffering withdrawal."

All of which sound like reasonable grounds for dismissal as opposed to reasonable grounds to check up on everyone because some small fraction of the population have some kind of drug problem.

Ron Porter
Friday, August 06, 2004

right, so you should go to the expense of hiring these people, enrolling them in benefits, fulfilling regulatory requirements, losing productivity on them for 90 or 120 days or whatever the HR-mandated probation period is, and then, finally, cut them loose so that you can find a respectable candidate.  Oh but wait, in the US there are laws against letting people go because of alcohol or drug addiction, you have to pay for their treatment in some cases... oh joy.  That sounds like the sort of babysitting service *I* want to run when I start a business.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004


<sarcasm>
OTOH it *is* easy to check on an employee's addiction to internet message boards.  Maybe we should fire everyone who shows up in the proxy logs hitting anything except the company home page?

Maybe the big employers could all get together to share their proxy logs, so you could 'no-hire' people based on their work habits at previous employers...
</sarcasm>

Craig
Friday, August 06, 2004

"They care because illegal drug use extends into the workplace.  They either come to work high, or shoot up on the job, or sit around not getting anything done because they're suffering withdrawal."

Non sequiter. It only becomes an issue if they actually *do* show up to work chemically-altered. And, I would add, what about Joe Bob who comes into work on Monday with a massive hangover? Where I grew up, it was almost a badge of honor to stay drunk from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon and then brag about it on Monday morning. These clowns were useless until Wednesday afternoon....

Alcohol is abused far more often than other substances, but  ofttimes a blind eye is turned toward the alcoholic because of the "good 'ole boy" ethic in certain parts of the country.

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

I sure as heck wish the Dallas Cowboys didn't test for drugs, neither.  Know what I'm saying, g?

Quincy Carter
Friday, August 06, 2004

"right, so you should go to the expense of hiring these people, enrolling them in benefits, fulfilling regulatory requirements, losing productivity on them for 90 or 120 days or whatever the HR-mandated probation period is, and then, finally, cut them loose so that you can find a respectable candidate. "

Yes because these drug addicts will have an education and/or employment background that would get them hired in the first place, wouldn't they?

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 06, 2004

Yes actually, it may amaze you that some people become addicted (or more heavily addicted) to drugs later in life, perhaps even after their formal education is complete.  Amazing shit, huh?

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

In any case, Dennis, I'm sorry that you're a pot smoker, but frankly, I wouldn't hire you.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

FWIW, I have as personal policy about this.

If someone wants a drug test from me, and it _clearly_ relates  to the job, I will likely concur.

If it doesn't (and most don't), I tell them up front I charge a 20% premium on my rate for the privilege of invading my privacy.

My reasoning is that most people who decline on principle are discounted as "druggies", or just ignored, or never apply to the position in the first place.  I don;t expect to get the job, I just want these companies to know there's a cost and a consequence to their behavior. I would encourage others to do likewise.

Mongo
Friday, August 06, 2004

geez...what a tangent this one became. 

grover
Friday, August 06, 2004

"In any case, Dennis, I'm sorry that you're a pot smoker, but frankly, I wouldn't hire you. "

Thanks muppet, but the sad reality (for you) is that I'd pass any test with flying colours (hell I'd pass any alcohol test with flying colours. Having a young child has a chilling effect on the partying). My experience with drugs is having a roommate that hit the bong every night a decade ago, and a puff in high school. Unlike you, though, I don't define the reality around me to conform to my own personal circumstance. If I did I'd ban asshats with an inflated sense of self from online boards.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 06, 2004

`My reasoning is that most people who decline on principle are discounted as "druggies" '

See muppets post above - it's the classic technique that's kept the futile war on drugs alive. Either you're for it, or your a druggie. Either you're for extensive violations of person freedoms, or you're a terrorist. It's a pretty convenient defense of indefensible violations of rights.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 06, 2004

Damn, Dennis, share the knowledge!  Do you think a brother coud use your skillz to pass a NFL test?

Quincy Carter
Friday, August 06, 2004

Apropos of nothing, really, I thought I'd mention I just bought the original "Reefer Madness" for 4.99 at a BestBuy bargain bin on Tuesday this week.

I really don't know what to say to those who don't understand why this is so tragically funny today.

Mongo
Friday, August 06, 2004

"geez...what a tangent this one became. "

Ooooh yeah. Opened up a rather *large* can of worms, you did.

Michael E.

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

As annoying as that guy pretending to be Quincy Carter is, he riases an interesting point for those of you who said that a history of drug use, past or present, doesn't matter.

Granted you have to be a sports fan for this to sink in, but my question is: would that policy be ok for sports teams?

For example, say you're a Boston Red Sox fan and you find out that key members of the team were using last October, when they just missed the chance to go to the World Series.

How would you feel about drug use and employment in that context?

Mr. Contrarian
Friday, August 06, 2004

You mean like the upcoming All-Drug Olympics? I guess if I was under the impression they weren't using then I'd be a bit disappointed but I think we know better.

old_timer
Friday, August 06, 2004

Man, the only Red Sock I'd have suspected of being on crack during the ALCS last October was the @#$%^! manager...

(what? me bitter?)

- former car owner in Queens
Friday, August 06, 2004

Not crack, actually.  Maybe downers.  Or 'ludes. 

SOME hallucinogen that prevented him from seeing what EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE STADIUM could see - that Martinez needed to come the @#$% OUT!!!!

Or else maybe some narcotic that just kept him from moving until it was WAY too late.

@##$%.

I say again, #$@%@.

- former car owner in Queens
Friday, August 06, 2004

The big problem with drug testing in the workplace (or testing for an addiction to late-night talk shows or whatever) is that it's not a valid predictor of workplace performance.  I've known Ph.D physicists who smoke dope and I've known a completely straight guy who sits on his ass all day.  Drug use or not has no impact on their work. 

If you don't want to hire anyone who has a "problem" that might interfere with their work, you'd have to avoid: people who do drugs, people who drink, people with emotional problems, people with health problems (no ADHD), family problems (no single parents, no problem kids), lots of debts (maybe they'll steal), and on and on.

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004

"...for those of you who said that a history of drug use, past or present, doesn't matter."

Uh, where did I say that? Or anybody else, for that matter? I said I personally take a dim view of anybody who abuses anything, but as long as they are not under the influence on my property or in my place of business (assuming I had either, which I don't), t'aint my business what they do in the privacy of their own home.

I'm beginning to think the earlier post about it being for insurance purposes (translated: CYA) was probably closer to the truth as to why these tests are done.

Still doesn't make them The Right Thing To Do(tm).

Michael E.

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

Michael E:

"I'm beginning to think the earlier post about it being for insurance purposes (translated: CYA) was probably closer to the truth as to why these tests are done."

This being the USA, I'd wager liability/lawsuits factor into it in a big way, too.

"Still doesn't make them The Right Thing To Do(tm)."

Abso-freakin'-lutely.

- former car owner in Queens
Friday, August 06, 2004

I have never partaken of illicit drugs.

And I also refuse to submit to drug tests.

Anyone with an understanding of statistics and probability understands what a sham such testing is.

Here's a little job interview problem for you all, if a drug test has a 85% non-error rate (this is typical) and your drug test comes back positive for heroin, does that mean there is a 15% chance that you were taking heroin?

And did you know that when you take these, many employers will submit your results to a credit database?

The last place I was asked to piss for them after recieving a job offer, I said "Sure, I'll piss for you." and then took a whiz right in their lobby! I advise all of you who value your libery to do the same!

Scott
Friday, August 06, 2004

Scott, another thing you could add was the variance introduced by the poorly-trained morons administering the tests. I used to work in medical research - on the few occassions I actually submitted to testing (before I grew a spine and started declining politely), I used to tick off in my mind the flagrant violations of lab safety, handling of potentially biohazardous materials, and other little tidbits of poor technique that,  in a research environment, would have immediately resulted in the samples getting tossed due to contamination. Whenever I mentioned these to the technician administering the test (or to the employers requiring it), I'd get the usual drivel about "We're professionals, we know what we're doing!"

Riiiight.

Michael E.

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

By the way, poppy-seed muffins DO come up positive for opiates (heroin), although just the initial test for presence or absence, and not when they send it in to analyze the amount.

I speak from personal experience on that, as we used to have random testing (at a safety-critical job), and our building cafeteria sold poppy-seed muffins that I had on break one morning. The test was about 15 minutes after that, and I (and a few others who had also eaten them)  came back positive and were suspended (with pay) until they could send it in for further analysis.

John
Friday, August 06, 2004

John, you get both poppy seeds and heroin from the same species of poppy. So it is not surprising that one would test positive.

There have been some nasty lawsuits because companies hired real bad guys (drivers with suspended licenses and multiple dui hired to drive vans/trucks, people with convictions for rape/robbery being send out to work in peoples' homes where they do what they know best). So there is a lot of emphasis on doing criminal background checks, checking credit, running your piss thru a lab. The results mean nothing as to whether you are qualified or not, whether you are rehabilitated or not, whether you are a good worker or not. They are purely to keep their insurance costs down. They are scared to death of appearing in a court room and getting nailed by some shyster who yells at them "what do you mean by you didn't know? Didn't you check?" Or even worse, getting called into their bosses office and getting yelled at with things like "you hired this lawsuit, you're fired too."

Peter
Friday, August 06, 2004

Good point but let's assume that there is no issue of having eaten poppy seeds. Let's also assume that the lab followed all the procedures, there was no sloppy work involved.

Simple probability question. Should be a piece of cake for all you brilliant supercoders. To restate:

> Here's a little job interview problem for you all, if a drug test has a 85% non-error rate (this is typical) and your drug test comes back positive for heroin, does that mean there is a 15% chance that you were taking heroin?

Scott
Friday, August 06, 2004

>>> Simple probability question. Should be a piece of cake for all you brilliant supercoders. To restate:

> Here's a little job interview problem for you all, if a drug test has a 85% non-error rate (this is typical) and your drug test comes back positive for heroin, does that mean there is a 15% chance that you were taking heroin?

This is the same problem as with lie detector tests and credit reports - the information is treated as 100% accurate, even though it's not. 

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004


I wouldn't want a drug user working for me; even a recreational drug user. If the guy is working his ways towards a $2,000 a day coke habit, I really don't want him around when he decides to start stealing shit to support his habit.

I find the pro-drug group's argument ironic. Their argument is "I'm free to do as I choose! It's my choice! My freedom!"

But yet...they don't want to extend that same freedom to me in me hiring choices. More than a little hypocritical. They want their freedom to do drugs, but don't want the consequences.

I say what's perfectly fair is that you are free to do drugs; I am free to disqualify you from employment if you do drugs.

Nah
Friday, August 06, 2004

>>> I find the pro-drug group's argument ironic. Their argument is "I'm free to do as I choose! It's my choice! My freedom!"

>>> But yet...they don't want to extend that same freedom to me in me hiring choices.


For me it's not a pro-drug thing, the only point I'm trying to make is that it's stupid to take a simplistic, absolutist approach - must test everyone and base hire/no-hire on the results of the test.

The argument about "I should be free to hire whoever I want based on whatever I want" could also apply to any other criteria - I don't want to hire women because they all get pregnant and go on maternity leave, I don't want to hire single parents because they're always stressed out, I don't want to hire new parents because they're always distracted, I don't want to hire Muslims because they're all fanatics, I don't want to hire germans because they're all Nazis...

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004

Ward -

what's wrong with that, exactly?  The market would eventually rule.  If Joe doesn't hire Muslim single pregnant parents, then Bob will and reap the benefits of a larger talent pool.  When did the government need to get so far up everybody's ass?

And now they want to get up it even farther with the Patriot Act, and more to come.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

> pro-drug

Where in *any* of these posts do you see *anything* that could even be loosely construed as a "pro-drug" position?!  Over and over again I said I can't stand being around drunks and addicts of *any* kind. This isn't about DRUGS!!! It's about the !@#$%  Fourth Amendment!

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

Are we saying that something that the Founding Fathers thought was important enough to spell out for us as forbidding the government to do, we now say it's alright for an artificial construct known as a corporation to do without "probable cause"?! What next?!

This *is* 1984, except we're headed for "Rollerball." http://www.badmovies.org/movies/rollerball/

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

"what's wrong with that, exactly?  The market would eventually rule.  If Joe doesn't hire Muslim single pregnant parents, then Bob will and reap the benefits of a larger talent pool.  When did the government need to get so far up everybody's ass?"

Muppet, why don't you go walk up to the first African American you see who's over the age of about 50 and ask him or her what it was like to live under Jim Crow laws?  Or ask any South African of non-Boer descent about life under apartheid?

"The market would eventually rule," my tuchis. No sense of *history* whatsoever....

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

>>> what's wrong with that, exactly?  The market would eventually rule.

Nothing.  I agree completely.  Sheesh, I'm probably the only person in this city - maybe the country - with a "Who is John Galt?" t-shirt.  Let people choose based on whatever criteria they want.  If they're smart, they'll figure out that they're idiots to ignore (fill in a racial descriptor here).  Or maybe they're not idiots, if it really doesn't make sense to hire (fill in some other identifiable group here).  Either way, I agree it should be a free choice of the person/company doing the hiring.

I was trying to stick to the point that it's stupid to rely unreservedly on a drug test to keep this thread under control.  Hence the Nazi reference...

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004

+++Jim Crow laws?  Or ask any South African of non-Boer descent about life under apartheid?

"The market would eventually rule," my tuchis. No sense of *history* whatsoever....+++


we're not talking about Laws here, idiot, we're talking about the market.  There aren't any Jim Crow laws these days, except for maybe Affirmative Action.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

>>> Are we saying that something that the Founding Fathers thought was important enough to spell out for us as forbidding the government to do, we now say it's alright for an artificial construct known as a corporation to do without "probable cause"?! What next?!

Neither the government nor the artificial constructs should be allowed to do it.  But in the case of a corporation asking to do it, you're able to say no to them.  The government shouldn't get involved one way or another - they don't need to forbid it, but they shouldn't pass laws requiring it.

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004

No, 85%.

Your 8th grade math teacher
Friday, August 06, 2004

> idiot
Yes, muppet, we all know ad hominem attacks are your strong suit. Whatever....

Yes, and "markets" in the South where I grew up had this annoying habit of excluding anyone who wasn't white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant. Then that bad 'ole Federal government came up and said, "uh, wait, guys, you can't discriminate in hiring just because of a person's skin color, religion, whatever...." Do we all agree this was The Right Thing To Do(tm)?

Back on topic:
Is there *any* hard data (not hearsay, actual scientific research) to support the position that people who fail (or pass, for that matter) a drug test are any more likely to steal, show up drunk, waste time, whatever? Where's the data?

wmeconsulting.us
Friday, August 06, 2004

i heard this was common in the UK too - drug testing that is?

Prakash S
Friday, August 06, 2004

OK, the 15% was inadvertantly wrong, sorry.

And I agree with the general psychological idea that anyone looking at the results is going to be seeing it in binary black and white 100%, but I'm not looking for that.

Just a plain question about statistics, looking for an actual number.

I'll restate:

You are hiring a senior developer in a metropolitan US area for a position paying $85,000 that requires 5 years of experience and a degree.

He is given a drug test and it comes back positive for heroin. He has not eaten poppyseeds and the lab did a perfect job and made no mistakes. The test is guaranteed to give accurate results 85% of the time.

What is the probability that the person tested actually used heroin?

If you need any more information to answer the question, just ask.

Scott
Friday, August 06, 2004

Let me clarify the 85%:

If you test 100 heroin addicts, this test will correctly identify 85 of them. 15 of them will get a false negative.

If you test 100 non-heroin addicted poppy-seed free mormons, 85 of them will test clean and 15 of them will get a false negative.

So I ask you again, with a test for heroin that has a 85% accuracy rate, what is the probability that a US software developer who has tested positive actually has used heroin recently?

Scott
Friday, August 06, 2004

Sorry, false POSITIVE on the 15 mormons.

Scott
Friday, August 06, 2004

"I don't want to hire women because they all get pregnant and go on maternity leave, I don't want to hire single parents because they're always stressed out, I don't want to hire new parents because they're always distracted, I don't want to hire Muslims because they're all fanatics, I don't want to hire germans because they're all Nazis...
"

<sigh>

Do women choose to be women? No.
Do Germans choose to be Germans? No?

Do people choose to do drugs? YES.

See the difference? If you do drugs, then you *choose* to do drugs. That's why I *choose* not to hire you.

You can't demand freedom for your choices, then refuse to the same freedom to other people.

Nah
Friday, August 06, 2004

So in Canada, discriminatory drug testing is illegal. In the US it is actively encouraged and commonplace. I'd be interested to see a study on the turnover, workplace problems in Canada versus the US. Clearly out offices are full of people hepped up on goofballs given that they don't have the weekly piss test to keep 'em clean.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, August 06, 2004

+++Then that bad 'ole Federal government came up and said, "uh, wait, guys, you can't discriminate in hiring just because of a person's skin color, religion, whatever...." Do we all agree this was The Right Thing To Do(tm)?+++


nope, we don't.  it's a short-term, short-sighted solution that has a huge potential for abuse and simply moves discrimination to another venue, it doesn't eliminate it.  Now white folks are passed over for a job not for lack of merit, but because the company has quotas to meet.  Hooray for half-assed solutions to our problems.

muppet
Friday, August 06, 2004

>>> You can't demand freedom for your choices, then refuse to the same freedom to other people.

You already made that point, but now you're backing away from it...  it's pretty hard to draw a line and distinguish between things people choose to do and things they don't have a choice about.  Should the government step in and dictate which is which? 

Is obesity a choice?  Is achoholism?  Is ADHD?  If I either don't know which of those are diseases or don't think they are, why can't I choose to hire or not based on them?

Then there's the other type of cases: why can't tall, heavy people be jockeys?  It's not my choice to be tall, why can I be discriminated against just because my body type isn't ideal for that job?

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004

I see that I completely missed the fact that "Nah" didn't comment on the muslim example...

Presumably it's ok to refuse to hire someone on the basis of religion because that's a choice.  Even if you were raised in a particular religion, you can reject it if you want.

Anyway, I think I'll head over to Granville Street and score some BC bud...

Ward
Friday, August 06, 2004

Sigh, it's too bad no one wanted to have a crack at the statistics problem, especially since it is really the most important aspect of this entire debate. Forget the issue of whether or not dopeheads should be coding or driving forklifts and airplanes - the question is is 85% accuracy good enough?

It is not if you understand rudimentary statistics.

Let's start by assuming that you are a employer who tests for drugs and you interview 100,000 highly qualified candidates for the position of senior developer.

Studies suggest that in the US population of highly educated people making $85,000 a year, such as senior developers, 0.1% are heroin users. Heroin use is rare overall and is mainly concentrated in the lower classes. Use of heroin is currently very rare among the upper-middle class.

So, for our example, you will get 100 actual users among the 100,000 people you interview, and 99900 non-users.

Only 1/3 of professionally skilled heroin users do it regularly enough to show up on a test, so there will be 33 that have enough heroin in their system to test positive. Of these 33, 28 (85%) will be correctly identified as heroin users due to the accuracy of the test.

Out of the 99900 non-users, 15%, or 14,985 will be incorrectly identified as heroin users -- these are your "false-positives".

So out of the 100,000 interviews, a total of 14985 + 28 = 15013 will test positive. Among these 15013 are both those who rightly tested positive for heroin use, as well as those who were clean as a whistle but got a false positive. Of those 15013, 28 or 0.19% are actual heroin users and 15013 or 99.81% are false positives.

So, if you find that a candidate for senior developer tests positive for heroin use, there is a 0.19% chance that he actually uses heroin.

Despite this, employers use these tests and not only refuse to hire candidates based on them but report their results to credit bureaus and health care agencies where it causes the candidates grevious professional and financial harm. They may even become uninsurable.

If you are among the 99.81% who are falsely labelled by this system, you don't find it an amusing system, or a necessary precaution.

You would be insane to work for a company that does this testing because if their understanding of math is so bad that they think drugs tests are effective at identifying drug users, it is certain that also deficient are the math skills that would enable them to determine if their company is making a profit or if one marketing apporach is better than the other or if a product is actually making a profit.

- Scott

Scott
Saturday, August 07, 2004

except they don't test for only heroin, so your scenario is inherently flawed from the beginning.

muppet
Saturday, August 07, 2004

and your example doesn't scale.  Who the hell interviews 100,000 candidates for a single position, even with multiple openings?

muppet
Saturday, August 07, 2004

and, you skew the numbers deliberately.  99.81% of test takers are not falsely labelled, according to your numbers, 99.81% of 15% are.  That's a great deal lower.  But good drama, nice troll, too.

muppet
Saturday, August 07, 2004

You are right that they test for several things. Each provides a new opportunity for error. When you consider that they test for more than heroin, the situation is worse.

Do the math with a sample of 20 employees - if you round you will see that 3 were false positives and no actual heroin users were found, so a 100% rate of false labelling. The large numbers are given so that you can see how small the numbers of actual drug users found actually is. I am sorry if that escaped your notice.

The statistics are not skewed or distorted - the question from the beginning is if someone gets a positive reading on the drug test, what is the chance that he is on drugs. In most cases, it is miniscule.

If you believe there is a problem with the math, feel free to correct it.

Scott
Saturday, August 07, 2004

you're claiming 100% false labelling, skewing the numbers yet again.

If the 17 people found not to be users are all true non-users, then the false labelling is more around 15%, not 100%.  But keep on keepin' on.

muppet
Saturday, August 07, 2004

When we talk about 'labelling' we are talking about people who have been identified as drug users. You don't label people as being non-drug users. If we label three people as drug users and none of them are drug users, then that is 100% false labelling.

Do you have any criticisms of substance?

Scott
Saturday, August 07, 2004

it absolutely is of substance.  You're throwing around 100% for the sake of drama when the actual number of people inconvenienced by a drug test is like 13%, using your play numbers.

muppet
Saturday, August 07, 2004

Perhaps, muppet, you will go further and explain to us why it's OK to falsely label 13% of candidates for a job as drug users.

Kyralessa
Saturday, August 07, 2004

Actually, 100% of all people taking drug tests are inconvenienced by them. Have you ever heard someone say that it was very convenient of their employer to allow them to piss in a cup three times a year? That it is convenient to be tested is not a word anyone uses to describe the experience. Inconvenient, humilating and dehumanizing are ones I do hear though.

But aside from that, of the 15% falsely accused of drug use, saying that those folks are inconvenienced makes as much sense as saying that Martha Stewart is being inconvenienced right now. Not being able to find work, credit ruined, uninsurable, all because bean counters don't understand statistics?

You state over and over that my calculations are wrong, but you still have not shown that there are any errors. You just shout and yammer and rant. Are you on drugs then?

Scott
Saturday, August 07, 2004

First of all, all your numbers are bunk. The test the U.S. Federal government uses (required of all employees) has an error rate of 0.1%.

Somebody's confusing the cheap litmus tests you can get at the drugstore for drug tests sent to a professional lab.

GS-14
Saturday, August 07, 2004

GS, please state your sources.

The measured error rate for employee drug testing in the US  ranges from 10%-30%

http://www.bccla.org/othercontent/drugtestbrochure.html

Scott
Saturday, August 07, 2004

That appears to be Canadian information, not American. However, in general, urine tests are very crude. In most medical instances (I'm not referring to drugs testing), a cheap urine test is taken to indicate the presence of the metabolite under question. If that shows up a positive result, then, depending on what we're talking about, a blood test may be taken. This is vastly more accurate, and will typically give the error rate of <1% described in an earlier post.

As a non-USA citizen, I've always found the mandatory drug testing that appears to be so prevalent there utterly mind boggling. Be that as it may, one would like to think that if a positive drug test is going to go on your "permenent record", it should be based on an accurate blood test rather than a crude urine test.

Chris
Tuesday, August 10, 2004

+++Perhaps, muppet, you will go further and explain to us why it's OK to falsely label 13% of candidates for a job as drug users.+++

I never said it was OK.  I said that 13% is not 100%.

muppet
Tuesday, August 10, 2004

If you care to read the page you will find the relevant part is:

> The most accurate methods of urine analysis are time-consuming and expensive, and even then can be wrong at least 10% of the time. Companies often use cheaper methods which have a higher error rate. Surveys conducted in the United States have shown error rates as high as 30%. 

Note that it specifically says the surveys were done in the US, not Canada, something that you surely would have noticed if you read the page.

-
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I've never heard of an employer requiring a blood test. Urine tests are the most common. Occasionally a follow up might ask for a hair sample.

Several religions object to the taking of blood and thus blood requirements, in addition to being generally objectionable due to their very nature and also the risk of infection through needles, would violate federal equal opportunity laws since they would elimanate the consideration of entire classes of employees based on their religious beliefs.

-
Thursday, August 12, 2004

In general, statements without supporting references are irrelevant - "surveys conduced in the United States" is an assertion that I don't just accept at face value. Are you saying you believe everything you read on the internet?

I'm not advocating blood tests, just pointing out that urine tests are generally rather inaccurate. I'm really just supporting the statistical arguement that urine-based drug testing is deeply flawed if the results are sometimes directly used to affect your ability to get subsequent jobs/credit.

Chris
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Chris/Muppet, you are not making sense. Do you disagree with Scott's claims that the tests employers use are so inaccurate as to give useless results or not?

You first state that the information is not relevant because it is Canadian, and then when I pointed out that the website is specifically mentioning american results if you had bothered to read it, you suddenly change your tack and claim that it is no good because it is on the internet.

Do you really thing the BCCLU is a disreputable organization that posts sham information on their web site?

Please, if you have better information from a more reliable source, you would be well advised to share it. Otherwise, you are just making up things for the sake of argument.

-
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Grover, if it is a fed job, the background check part can take months sometimes.

ACLU all the way baby...

Now I can understand if I am say, operating heavy machinery all day where my impairedness could imperil my fellow man. But otherwise, what the @#(% makes these people self-righteous enough to think it is any of their business?

It is insane that employers are allowed to do this for MOST jobs. It is just utterly ridiculous. I sit in front of a computer most all day. Even if I were on copious amounts of <insert narcotic here>, the worst case scenario is that I go postal on a coworker or something.

Now does that scenario really happen often enough to justify the privacy invasion??????? #@%# NO!

More likely, I am going to be a piss-poor employee and I am just not going to get any work done, and the quality of what I do get done will suffer greatly. Drugs may have been the cause but the bottom line is still performance.

This crap about substance abuse being against the law and that being the employer's concern is not only crap, but it shouldn't even be crap that an intelligent person would argue.

As a hypothetical, you think it would be right for my employer to put cameras at all the red lights around their building and fire any employee they caught running them?

When did corporate america become a branch of fricking law enforcement? Do you really want things going that direction? Did you eat paint chips by any chance as a child?

I agreed to our drug-testing policy about a year ago so that I could keep my current job. They had never had a testing policy, but had decided to institute one. I raised hell about it, to no avail of course. Undoubtedly, yeah, a lot of people probably thought I was some kind of raving drug-crazed hippy.

In reality, it simply flies in the face of everything I consider sacred about my country and what I value about living in it. It is an ethical and moral violation of basic human rights and freedoms that never should have been allowed to spread the way it has.

I'm just as guilty for this going on as anyone for having signed that damned thing. I still feel like a traitor, but it's nice having a paycheck. But I still tell myself if it came down to it, I won't give in and actually do it if I'm ever randomly pulled. Not because I'd fear failing the test, but because I would ensure failing myself and failing my fellow americans by perpetuating such an inherently evil system.

Once again, it is something else that gives PERFORMANCE the backseat in favor of some other SOCIAL factor. It's no wonder that in my short career I've already witnessed so much fricking utter incompetence. It's because actual ability to get work done doesn't mean a damned thing. The world is apparently way overpopulated with pompous (or ignorant) assholes that (most likely due to their own ineptness and lack of skill) believe judging people, in the context of business, should be based on anything but PERFORMANCE.

Shakespeare said 'To thine own self be true.'
Tom Cruise said 'Show me the money.'

I'll say true compensation from an employer includes recognizing your individuality and what you provide as an individual to them.

And just as something else to think about....

If employers are allowed to do this kind of testing on everyone as they see fit, what is to stop corporate america from telling you what you will wear, eat, and/or drink at some point? Afterall, tests could be developed that showed if you drank coke or pepsi, or wore cotton or spandex. There is nothing at all that stops it at illicit substances. And these tests show employers more about you then they should ever know (especially if your employer happens to also be your insurer ;)), Like whether or not you take certain antidepressants and such.

I know that sounds rather Orwellian, but where there is financial incentive and no opposition...

Chance Govar
Thursday, August 12, 2004

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