All workplace drug testing practices are not created equal, according to a new study.
Black employees are significantly more likely than white ones to report working for an employer that performs drug tests, according to new research from the Yale School of Medicine. The finding was true among both employees working in executive/administrative roles and for those in technician/support occupations.
The study, which was published online in the Early View of the American Journal on Addictions, “opens the question of whether there are discriminatory [drug] testing practices,” said William Becker, first author and assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine.
Previous research has shown that black workers are more likely to report working in an office that conducts drug tests. Becker and his coauthors wanted to find out if that was due to discrimination in drug testing practices, or because racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to work in jobs that conducted drug tests.
To find out, he and his colleagues analysed the responses of nearly 70,000 people (ages 18 or older) to a federal survey on drug use and health. Then, they took the data and split the respondents into three career categories:
- (1) Executive, administrative, managerial, financial
- (2) Technicians and related support occupations
- (3) Transportation and material moving workers
The hypothesis was that the third group would act as a control, since drug tests for transportation and material moving workers are required by the government, Becker said.
What the authors found was that 48.2% of all respondents indicated that drug testing occurred at their workplace. Within those, however, 63.6% of black workers reported working for an employer that drug tested, as opposed to just 45.9% of white employees.
When the data was sorted into the three different career types, black workers continued to cite elevated levels of workplace drug testing in both the executive and support categories, but not in the transportation one. That led the authors to conclude that a correlation does exist between race and workplace drug testing that goes beyond minorities being more likely to work in occupations that use drug tests.
“We don’t have workplace level data; we don’t know who was actually tested,” Becker said. “But I think it’s safe to say that it challenges the assertion that the only reason there’s higher reporting among racial and ethnic minorities is because they’re in jobs where testing happens more often.”
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