Drugs

The 10 Biggest Companies That Subject Workers to Drug Testing

If you want a job with these corporate giants, be prepared to pee in a cup.

Drug test urine sample
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

For the past 35 or so years, millions of American workers have had to submit to a humiliating, privacy-invading procedure to get or keep a job: the urine sample drug test. As hard as it may be to imagine now, it wasn't always like that—and it isn't like that in the rest of the world.

Thank the Gipper. Mass worker drug testing is yet another dark legacy of the Reagan era. The practice began taking off as a drug war adjunct after Reagan required it for federal employees in 1986 and Congress passed the Drug Free Workplace Act the same year. That law required any business receiving federal dollars to implement a drug testing program.

According to the American Management Association, 21% of employers required drug tests in 1987, but as the drug war deepened under Reagan and his 1990s successors, that figure jumped to 81% by 1996.

Thanks to that drug war impetus, we have seen the growth of a "drug testing industrial complex" consisting of "drug test manufacturers, consulting and law firms specializing in the development of work-place drug testing policies and practices, and laboratories that carry out the testing," as SUNY Buffalo researcher Michael Frone explained in his book Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use in the Workforce and Workplace.

It's now a global industry with annual revenue somewhere around $3 billion this year, but employee drug testing remains overwhelmingly an American phenomenon, with the U.S. market accounting for about three-quarters of those revenues. Somehow, the industrial bases of the European Union, Japan, and other major economic powers survive without resorting to such invasive worker surveillance techniques.

But even here in the land of the free, employee drug testing looks to be on the decline, mainly because there is very little evidence that it actually improves either workplace safety or productivity. And at an average cost of $50 per drug test, employers end up paying an awful lot of money to catch a very small number of working drug users. As a result, the percentage of employers now requiring drug testing has declined to 57%, covering 40% of the American work force, according to a recent poll by the Society for Human Resource Management.

While the impulse to subject workers to drug tests appears to be waning, it is still a reality for tens of millions of American workers. Here, thanks to the good folks at InsiderMonkey, are the 10 biggest companies that still engage in workplace drug testing.

1. Amazon (Market Cap, $486.03 billion)

The e-commerce giant may require a drug test as the last step in the hiring process, depending on the position. It also does occasional random, suspicionless drug tests.

2. Berkshire Hathaway (Market Cap, $411.44 billion)

Warren Buffett's holding company requires mouth-swab drug tests of potential hires at several of its subsidiaries, including Applied Underwriters and Berkshire Hathaway Assurance. Berkshire Hathaway also does random, suspicionless drug testing of employees.

3. Johnson & Johnson (Market Cap, $353.38 billion)

The health care products giant embraces the notion of the drug-free workplace, and tests workers for both drugs and alcohol. But hey, at least its health insurance program will cover drug treatment—unless the employee is already subject to disciplinary action.

4. Exxon Mobil (Market Cap, $347.11 billion)

America's largest oil company requires a urinalysis test for all job applicants, and some may be tested for alcohol. Word is that Exxon is moving toward hair follicle testing, which would extend the period in which past drug use could be detected from days or weeks to months.

5. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Market Cap, $295.74 billion)

These wolves of Wall Street require urine drug testing for all its suppliers' employees, at the suppliers' expense. Those workers may also face random, suspicionless drug testing. (But one wonders if they test for cocaine in the top floor offices.)

6. General Electric (Market Cap, $243.63.03 billion)

GE requires mandatory pre-employment drug testing and may also subject workers to random, suspicionless drug testing. And it will subject employees working at a customer site to drug tests if the customer requests it and it is a lawful request.

7. Walmart (Market Cap, $239.88 billion)

Yep, if you want to be a janitor at Walmart, you'll have to pee in a cup. The retail giant tests new hires and tests again when considering employees for promotion.

8. AT&T (Market Cap, $237.90 billion)

Before the communications company will hire you, it requires a mandatory drug test. It may also subject workers to random, suspicionless drug tests, but appears to do infrequently.

9. Procter & Gamble (Market Cap, $227.26 billion)

To get a job with P&G, workers will have to first pass a drug test, either urine or hair follicle. It's not clear whether the mode of testing is random or based on the position sought.

10. Chevron (Market Cap, $197.51 billion)

The oil and gas company requires employees, contractors and subcontractors' employees to submit to drug tests, including alcohol testing. The company also requires contractors to perform random, suspicionless drug testing as well as drug testing after an accident.

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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