Racism in Drug Testing: A Literature Survey

It is not news that workplace drug testing is a potentially racist practice. The pattern fits an observation previously made by the ACLU, which wrote on its website that drug-testing policies not only are a “significant and unjustified invasion of privacy, they also single out those living in low-income communities and disproportionately impact people of color.”

Social scientists have proven that some managers often believe black people are more likely to be drug users. Notre Dame economics professor Abigail K. Wozniak writes in her 2014 report, “Discrimination and the Effects of Drug Testing on Black Employment,” that, “In a survey of hiring managers, there is a belief that blacks are more likely to fail a drug test…They also cite a 1989 survey in which 95% of [hiring survey] respondents described the typical drug user as black.”

In addition, certain drug-testing technologies, notably hair testing, can discriminate against people of color.

Below are some recent stories and studies that examine racism in drug testing.

Why mandatory drug tests at work are fundamentally racist

Black people are more likely than white people to be fired for failing a drug test

By Liz Pozner, Salon.com
MARCH 27, 2018

EXCERPTS: Mandatory drug testing is not only an annoying, expensive waste of company and employee time; a new Detox.net survey shows that their impact and implementation can also be racist.

Stark racial disparities are apparent in the 1,500-plus person survey. African Americans are much more likely to face repercussions for failing a drug test than white people; the study shows that 9.2 percent of blacks reported being reprimanded or even fired for failing a drug test. That’s more than double the number of whites who reported the same, just 4.4 percent.

According to the survey, 97.6 percent of military service members were tested for drugs at some point in their careers. The other most frequently drug-tested workers were those in manufacturing and transportation jobs and warehousing, at 94.4 percent and 94.3 percent, respectively. People working in health care, utilities and telecommunications were also drug-tested more than 90 percent of the time.

The list of industries that most frequently drug-test their employees looks like a list of industries built of the labor of people of color — a suspicion confirmed by a cross-reference against Bureau of Labor Statistics’ labor force data from 2017. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.3 percent of the U.S. population is black and 12.5 percent is Hispanic. Black and Hispanic Americans make up nearly 30 percent of the military39 percent of transportation and warehouse workers and 30 percent of health care workers, three of the most frequently drug-tested sectors.

 

Racial/ethnic differences in report of drug testing practices at the workplace level in the U.S.

The American Journal on Addictions, Jul-Aug 2014

Abstract

Background and objectives: It is unknown whether racial/ethnic differences in report of workplace drug testing persist when analyzed within and across various occupations. We sought to examine the association between worker demographics, workplace characteristics, and report of employment in a workplace that performs drug testing.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of the 2008-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health examining the relationship between race/ethnicity and report of workplace drug testing among employed, white, black, or Hispanic respondents ≥18 years old. In logistic regression analysis, we adjusted for demographic, occupational, and other relevant variables and performed stratified analyses among three specific occupations.

Results: Among 69,163 respondents, 48.2% reported employment in a workplace that performs drug testing. On multivariable analysis, younger age, male sex, black race, income greater than $20,000, completion of high school and non-urban residence were associated with report of drug testing at one’s workplace among the full sample as were non-white collar occupation, work in medium or large workplace, and absence of other substance abuse/dependence. In stratified analyses, black race was associated with report of workplace level drug testing among executive/administrative/managerial/financial workers and technicians/related support occupations; Hispanic ethnicity was associated with the outcome among technicians/related support occupations.

Conclusions: Racial/ethnic differences in report of workplace drug testing exist within and across various occupations. These differences have important public health implications deserving further study.

Scientific significance: Increased report of drug testing where racial/ethnic minorities work highlights the potential bias that can be introduced when drug testing policies are not implemented in a universal fashion.

© American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

 

State Breakdown Analysis of Drug Test Discrimination by Ethnicity

From Marijuana Central, an information site in Denver, CO 844-652-6875.

(EXCERPT)

After normalizing our drug test submission data with a 2017 Ethnic Population Distribution Report put forth by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), which is derived from the US Census Bureau, it has been determined that if you are Black or African-American, then you are nearly 1.3 times more likely to be drug tested for any reason.

This also includes increased rates of being “randomly” selected for a drug test. These discriminatory findings corroborate with the well established fact that on average, a Black person is nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a White person, even though both groups use marijuana at similar rates.

The Pacific region is a mixed bag. Hawaii in one of the most non-discriminatory places when it comes to drug testing. Nevada is fairly neutral to perhaps low discrimination. Arizona has a moderate issue where White people are drug tested less while Black and Hispanic people are drug tested more.

But California, having a population greater than the entire country of Canada, is highly discriminatory towards Black people. By shear volume of people, California ruins this entire region.

 

Racial/Ethnic Differences in Report of Drug Testing Practices at the Workplace Level in the US

American Journal on Addictions, September 2013

Abstract

It is unknown whether racial/ethnic differences in report of workplace drug testing persist when analyzed within and across various occupations. We sought to examine the association between worker demographics, workplace characteristics, and report of employment in a workplace that performs drug testing. We performed a cross-sectional study of the 2008-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health examining the relationship between race/ethnicity and report of workplace drug testing among employed, white, black, or Hispanic respondents ≥18 years old. In logistic regression analysis, we adjusted for demographic, occupational, and other relevant variables and performed stratified analyses among three specific occupations. Among 69,163 respondents, 48.2% reported employment in a workplace that performs drug testing. On multivariable analysis, younger age, male sex, black race, income greater than $20,000, completion of high school and non-urban residence were associated with report of drug testing at one’s workplace among the full sample as were non-white collar occupation, work in medium or large workplace, and absence of other substance abuse/dependence. In stratified analyses, black race was associated with report of workplace level drug testing among executive/administrative/managerial/financial workers and technicians/related support occupations; Hispanic ethnicity was associated with the outcome among technicians/related support occupations. Racial/ethnic differences in report of workplace drug testing exist within and across various occupations. These differences have important public health implications deserving further study. Increased report of drug testing where racial/ethnic minorities work highlights the potential bias that can be introduced when drug testing policies are not implemented in a universal fashion.

 

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