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This paper reviewed the legal issues that may arise when a company fires an employee for refusing to take a lie detection and drug test. The analysis was based on employee rights and drug laws. The analysis shows that the California based private company acted illegally in firing 98 of its workers for declining to take the lie detection test.
It is important for business organizations to understand the ethical issues that may arise when they infringe on employee rights. This paper analyzes the legal issues associated with a California based private company’s decision to fire an employee for refusing to take a drug-use related lie detection test. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act disallows the use of lie detector tests in most private organizations either before or during employment. The paper analyzes the legal issues in the current case by considering drug laws in private organizations. The U.S. Department of Labor prohibits private employers from penalizing employees that refuse to take the lie detector tests.
Legal Issues in the Case Study
The current legal situation with respect to workplace drug-tests is still changing, and labor unions continue to mount pressure on the issue of compulsory drug test programs. The major issue raised by these protests is that random drug tests infringe on the Fourth Amendment privileges of employees. These issues were effective in the federal courts until 1989 after The Supreme Court passed two judgments (Miller, Giannini, Gold and Philomena, 1990). Some states, including The State of California, have passed the law banning randomized employee drug tests in the workplace.
The decision of the Supreme Court in 1989 was due to The Federal Railway’s decision to test 20 train crew members, and the Customs Service’s decision to test workers (Crown and Rosse, 1988). Although the actual conditions of the decisions were concise, the court essentially approved random tests for government employees. Although the court concluded that it was necessary for urine tests to conform to sensibleness requirements, most of the tests in both cases did not follow this standard. The court concluded that the government had the right to perform subject government employees to unannounced drug tests.
Owing to the broad nature of these laws, most government workers are subject to different drug tests. In his opposition to this judgment during the Von Raab verdict, Justice Scalia complained about the wide nature of this law, emphasizing that most workers will face pointless humiliation. He explained that the need to ensure community safety might lead to random tests for vehicle drivers, construction engineers, and other individuals. Even though some of Scalia’s predictions are yet to materialize, some random drug tests for government employees are currently supported in lower courts. The court’s inconsiderateness of the privacy rights of individuals with regards to drug testing indicates the legislature’s role in protecting individual rights.
While the laws governing drug and lie detector tests are directed majorly to government employees, the laws do not affect workers in the private sector. Nevertheless, only a few cases have been won by workers in private organizations when they are fired for declining to take drug or polygraph tests. Many states consider “employment-at-will” law over worker privacy privileges (Crown and Rosse, 1988). However, only California’s Supreme Court has concluded differently. In California, employees in the private sector are fully protected by their constitutional privacy rights (Crown and Rosse, 1988).
According to the US Department of Labor (2012):
Employers are generally prohibited from requiring or requesting any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test, and from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee or prospective employee for refusing to take a test or for exercising other rights under the Act (p. 1).
The law directly states that it was the right of the employees fired by the California based company to decline to take the polygraph test because it infringed on their privacy. The law also prohibits an employer from taking action against an employee for declining to take the test. The polygraph law does not affect some types of organizations. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (2012) neither protects government workers nor individuals subject to lie detection tests for national security issues (p. 1).
Since the company is a private organization, then it is subject to the requirements of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, and this makes it illegal for the company to fire the 98 workers for declining to take the polygraph test. It is advised, therefore, that the employees seek legal action against the company for infringing on their privacy rights and also for wrongfully dismissing them from work for refusing to take the tests.
Ethical considerations make employee rights a delicate issue. The management of every organization must consider the possible legal actions that may result from their decisions. This paper reviewed the legal issues that may arise when a company fires an employee for refusing to take lie detection and drug tests. The analysis shows that the California based private company acted illegally in firing 98 of its workers for declining to take lie detection tests.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws have improved the workplace by introducing regulatory laws governing employee and employer behavior. OSHA laws ensure safe health and environmental business practices and stipulate employee activities. These laws have improved business performance by reducing organizational unionism. Repealing these laws will be irrational because business organizations will need to spend more money on adjudication with a re-unionizing workforce.
The best-case scenario of the revocation of these laws will be short term profitability since businesses will not be required to operate within specific standards (Feldman, 2011). A worst-case scenario will emerge eventually because unionism will affect businesses’ ability to sell inventory, which eventually results in a recession (Gordon, 2014). OSHA laws are feasible for business operations and profitability and should not be revoked.
Crown, D. F. and Rosse, J. G. (1988). A critical review of the assumptions underlying drug testing. Journal of Business and Psychology, 3(1), 22–41. Web.
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Feldman, J. (2011). OSHA Inaction. Web.
Gordon, B. (2014). Workplace safety in 2014: OSHA’s Impact and Role in the New Year. Web.
Miller, N.S., Giannini, A. J., Gold, M. S. and Philomena, J. A. (1990). Drug testing: medical, legal, and ethical issues. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 7(4), 239–44. Web.
U.S. Department of Labor. (2012). Employee rights: Employee polygraph protection act (WHD 1462). Web.