A swab or your job

We've gotten used to surrendering our luggage to airport searches. In some cases, small pads are swabbed on our personal belongings and then run through a machine that looks for leftover particles of malicious materials like gunpowder or biohazards. Now, a similar process is finding its way into the corporate environment to test employees for drug use.

Global Detection & Reporting has a tool long used by law enforcement agencies that is wiped on surfaces in an attempt to detect cannabis, cocaine and other controlled substances. The wipes, not unlike home pregnancy tests, are sensitive enough to pick up trace amounts of the drugs. They should be able to weed out (no pun intended) minute amounts passed on from incidental contact with drug residue left on items such as money or newspapers.

The tests have gained attention because they are both cheaper than a traditional urine test and less personally invasive.

So far, anyway.

Already, The Wall Street Journal reported one case in which an employee who was bagged by the test lost his job. But he was rehired in another position and now submits to weekly swabs of his forehead to prove he's clean. That company's president stated in the WSJ story that he now spot-tests employees.

It's all perfectly legal--on-premises drug testing of all kinds has largely stood up in court battles--but one has to wonder about the workplace morale at a company where, at any moment, you may be stopped and swabbed.

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